Why Do Dogs Eat Their Nail Clippings?

Does your dog like to snack on nails? ¹

A while ago, I wrote an article about some of the reasons that dogs might eat their shedded fur.

In response to that post, many readers have been anxious to find out more about why some dogs are so obsessed with nail clippings…

Does your dog snack on their nail clippings the first chance they get?

Are you concerned that they may be picking a nasty habit?

Dogs see anything with an interesting smell as a snack, and nail clippings do have a smell. 

Eating nail clippings may seem disgusting to humans, but some dogs find it appealing.

While this is a relatively common behavior, it doesn’t imply that it’s okay for dogs to eat clips of their toenails.

Let’s examine why dogs chew their nail clippings and what might happen as a result.

Here is what you will learn from this article:

  1. Why do dogs eat their nail trimmings?
  2. Is it normal for dogs to chew on their nails?
  3. What happens if a dog eats a nail?
  4. Do toenails digest in a dog’s stomach?
  5. Are nail clippings dangerous for dogs to eat?
  6. Can dogs get sick from eating long nail clippings with nail polish?
  7. Can I stop my dog from eating nail clippings
  8. How can I stop my dog from biting his toenails?
  9. Conclusion

Why do dogs eat their nail trimmings?

Since dogs are individuals, it is difficult to understand why some will eat nail clippings while others show no interest.

But much like people, dogs have diverse likes and preferences.

Dogs that love to taste whatever they find on the floor may occasionally pick up nail clippings.

These dogs may see nail clippings as something to snack on, and the temptation is made even stronger by the fact that nail clippings, especially those that come from feet, have a strong smell.

Also, dogs don’t really know what they should or shouldn’t eat, and they’re prone to eat anything that smells nice or interesting, including nails.

Is it normal for dogs to chew on their nails?

It’s not unusual to see dogs chewing their own nails.

Some dog species are very keen on self-grooming, and you can find them trimming their own nails with their teeth. Dogs typically chew their nails for one of these reasons.

Self-grooming: some dogs prefer to handle their own nail care. When self-grooming, dogs may bite their nails, particularly if they are quite long. Although there are times when some dogs simply eat their nails even when they don’t require nail trimming.

Itchy paws: dogs can chew on their nails because they have itchy paws. Chewing either stops the itching or causes endorphins to be released, which lessens the irritation. Sometimes, arthritis or allergies may cause dogs to have itchy or painful paws.

Boredom: like people, dogs can get bored if they aren’t properly stimulated. Dogs may try to entertain themselves by licking or chewing their nails when they are bored, especially if they are alone and idle.

What happens if a dog eats a nail?

When dogs eat nail clippings, they travel through the esophagus and settle in the stomach. 

They are most likely going to rest there, unharmed by the dog’s stomach acids.

Nail clippings are resistant to the processes that normally break down organic materials in the digestive tract.

After the dog’s next meal, the nail clippings will bind to their food as it is processed by their body’s natural mechanisms for drawing essential nutrients and minerals from the meal.

The dog will eventually expel the nail clippings from their body as part of their feces after they bind with food and pass through the intestinal tract.

It’s highly unlikely that a toenail will ever cause an intestinal blockage, but it might disturb a dog’s digestive system.

The intestinal tract might experience some irritation if the toenail was particularly large. 

It may take a few days for nail clippings to pass through the GI tract, but it most likely won’t degrade before it’s expelled by the body.

However, if your dog experiences any form of digestive distress, give her a bland diet of cooked white rice and shredded boiled chicken breast for a few days to treat her general GI upset.

Generally, your dog won’t suffer too much damage.

Do toenails digest in a dog’s stomach?

Dogs are unable to digest nails.

Keratin, the substance that fingernails are made of, is extremely difficult to digest, therefore dogs can’t digest them in the stomach or anywhere else in their digestive tract because they lack the necessary nutrients or proteins to digest keratin.

Are nail clippings dangerous for dogs to eat?

Generally, dogs are unlikely to suffer any significant damage from eating nail clippings.

But this isn’t to say that nail clippings are safe for dogs, because they are not.

Dogs should not be allowed to eat nail clippings because there are potential dangers to it. 

First, nail clippings can get lodged in the dog’s mouth or teeth. And once cut, nails can be incredibly sharp.

Therefore, the nail could make small cuts in your dog’s mouth, resulting in a painful sore that can get infected.

If swallowed, the nail clippings can travel through the digestive tract without causing any damage, or they may even cause health problems if they get lodged in your dog’s throat.

The interior digestive tract of your dog could also be punctured or hurt by the nail once it is in the stomach.

It should be noted that this is quite uncommon.

Lots of time, dogs will eat nail clippings that they discover on the ground without any problems.

Consider the number of times you’ve accidentally swallowed a piece of your nail after mindlessly chewing on it.

A dog would have the same experience, except that it won’t be able to tell you if a piece of the nail clipping became stuck in their throat.

Can dogs get sick from eating long nail clippings with nail polish?

Dogs should not eat nail clippings, especially those with nail polish on them.

Formaldehyde, toluene, dibutyl phthalate, formaldehyde resin, and camphor are all chemicals found in human nail polish that are particularly harmful to dogs.

The polish may still be dangerous when dry. 

The National Cancer Institute has identified the preservative formaldehyde as having the potential to cause cancer.

It is also one of the compounds that causes allergic contact dermatitis the most often.

Toluene, dibutyl phthalate, and formaldehyde resin can also result in allergic contact dermatitis.

Camphor oil is deadly if ingested, even as it’s often used as a topical treatment for a number of ailments

Can I stop my dog from eating nail clippings

You may not know the reason why your dog wants to eat nail clippings, but there are steps you can take to stop the behavior.

Actually, it’s much easier to prevent them from eating nail clippings by making sure that they don’t have access to nail clippings.

When you trim your nails, don’t do it in your dog’s presence or just toss the clippings in the trash.

When you trim your dog’s nails, do it over a trash can or discard any pieces that are clipped off immediately you finish.

Since the case is so special, it is probably not worth trying to train your dog to stop eating nail clippings.

If you don’t want your dog to eat nails, make sure there aren’t anywhere around you when you clip your nail, and ensure you discard the clippings once you finish.

Another thing to check for as to why your dog may be eating nail clippings is if they are suffering from a mineral deficiency or have a medical condition.

It’s possible that your dog has Pica and eats more than just nails.

Dogs with pica have cravings for non-food objects and enjoy eating them. Some dogs will only crave and eat a certain object, but others may consume several different kinds.

Pica can put your dog at risk of a major health crisis since what they ingest could be poisonous, become stuck in their intestinal tract or interfere with their normal digestion.

I always advise visiting the vet if you believe that your dog’s behavior may be an indication of something more serious, such as an illness or nutrient deficiencies.

The easiest way to determine if something is seriously wrong is to talk to your vet.

How can I stop my dog from biting his toenails?

While it is possible to stop your dog from eating nail clippings, it can be more difficult to stop your dog from chewing its own toenails.

It’s typically not a problem if your dog sometimes chews on its nails, but you should only get involved if the behavior develops into a chronic, unhealthy problem.

If they start biting their paw on a regular basis, you need to figure out what’s wrong and how to deal with it. Your veterinarian can help you determine the underlying causes and offer suggestions for how to stop and treat your dog’s discomfort.

But before going to the vet, you can try out a few things yourself and here are some tips for you:

  • Ensure to frequently trim your dog’s nails because if they grow too long, they can lead to a number of issues, such as bacterial infections, fungal infections and itching. Keep their nails neat, wash their paws after a stroll, and make sure they receive the necessary grooming regularly.
  • Avoid exposing your dog to dangerous substances that can trigger allergic reactions. If you frequently employ pesticides, ensure that they never make contact with your dog’s paws or skin. And if this happens by accident, wash your dog’s paws immediately or give them a good bath. 
  • Make sure your dog has some toys, gets enough attention, and gets daily exercise like walks to keep it busy and prevent boredom and anxiety. However, remember to wash their paws after each walk to remove allergens that may be caught in their nails.

In general, pay particular attention to your pet’s paws, and call your veterinarian if you see any injury, such as a broken nail, an anomaly, a possible allergic reaction, or a skin infection.

Conclusion

Dogs are scavengers and will consume anything if given the chance, including nail clippings. It’s unlikely that chewing nail clippings will cause dogs any serious harm.

However, this does not imply that nail clippings are safe for dogs, as they are not.

Simply throw away your nail clippings as soon as possible if you don’t want your dog to consume them.

When you clip your nail, make sure your dog isn’t nearby, and discard the clippings after you’re done.

Photo credits

¹ Photo by Jurnej Furman on Flickr

James Grayston

My name is James and I love dogs. have owned four Golden Retrievers in the past 15 years. Currently I own two "Goldies"- a five year old and a seven month old. The photo shows me with our youngest when she was about 7 weeks old!