Probably not just a nervous habit
March 17, 2012 9:52 AM   Subscribe

My dog is biting her nails. What should I do?

I'm not sure what caused it... we take her to PetSmart for nail grinding every few weeks. She is always very fidgety and makes it difficult for the groomers, so I assume they must not have been able to finish the job nicely last time, and she started chewing because the nails were irritated. Now they're rough and splintered, and causing a lot of pain for herself and anyone she touches. And she keeps nibbling, making matters worse.

How do I fix the problem, and how do I prevent her from chewing her nails in the future?
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis to Pets & Animals (10 answers total)
Chewing on feet is a pretty typical symptom of allergies. This just started recently? Was there a change in her diet, or has spring started where you are? If she's otherwise healthy, you could try giving her an antihistamine (there is lots of information out there about various types and their dosage and counterindications). Or get her tested at the vet.
posted by emyd at 10:04 AM on March 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

It MIGHT be a nervous habit. this might help. Consider getting your dog more stimulating toys (bones, kongs with peanut butter) and perhaps a thundershirt. More exercise might help, and you might want to talk to your vet.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:05 AM on March 17, 2012

Various companies make a very bitter-tasting spray that you can apply to your dog's feet Our dog bites her nails sometimes, and we've found that applying the spray a couple times a day helps a lot. It is definitely not something they want to taste, so that should solve your problem in the short term.

Longer term, I would try another groomer. If the nails have been damaged, it could be a few weeks until your dog has healthy nails. Lots of dogs become fidgety getting their nails trimmed, but that's no excuse for a poorly done job. At the very least, they could have stopped the job to avoid hurting the dog.

You can help out in that area, though. Get a set of dog nail clippers yourself. Take a couple weeks to slowly introduce your dog to the look and smell, using treats to let her know that it is ok. Eventually, touch your dogs nails to the clippers, again rewarding with praise and treats.

It may take a long time, but that does help. Our dog still hates getting her nails cut, but she is very much improved over her wild freak-outs of the past.
posted by bombastic at 10:10 AM on March 17, 2012

If she's only biting the nails and not chewing her pads (much, anyway), she's grooming herself. It's how wild dogs control and clean their nails (along with daily use). She may also prefer them shorter than they are, but she'd probably do it even if they were extra-short.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:17 AM on March 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Our dog started this when she developed an allergy to her food. We switched her to a food with no grain, and then rotated between proteins with each bag, and it really helped (I think one was herring, one was lamb, one was chicken).
posted by dpx.mfx at 10:20 AM on March 17, 2012

Lots of dogs bite their nails to trim them. It's normal. Let her be.
posted by fshgrl at 11:01 AM on March 17, 2012

Could be an allergy. Could be a habit started by irritation from a trimming issue. Could also be a symptom of a more serious problem. I would take her to the vet and make sure it's not a medical issue.
posted by biscotti at 11:25 AM on March 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

My dog does this too. That and regular walking seems to keep his nails trimmed. To distract what may also be a chewing preoccupation, you may want to try your dog on some frozen raw bones. Bonus: my dog not only loves them, they help keep his teeth very white and clean.
posted by bearwife at 11:31 AM on March 17, 2012

btw, if they're rough and splintered the groomer probably took them way too short. The only time my dogs nails get splintered like that it's when they are too short, in her case usually from running a lot.

Don't put anything on them that will burn like bitter apple. Get your dog into booties for a few weeks (the $1 nylon ones are perfectly fine, you don't have to buy the ruff Wear $40 ones) until her nails grow out a bit and then don't have the groomer trim them so often.
posted by fshgrl at 12:34 PM on March 17, 2012 is about paws rather than just nails - but it may have some helpful advice on how to triage and treat your dog's problem.
posted by rongorongo at 3:29 PM on March 17, 2012

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