PetMeds® Why Dogs Bite or Chew Their Nails

“Why does my pet bite his nails or toes so much?” is a very common question presented to veterinarians. Often clients mistakenly think that it is a nervous habit or that their pet’s nails are too long. In the vast majority of cases, however, this annoying symptom (which can sometimes lead to secondary redness, inflammation and bacterial or yeast infection of the feet) is usually due to some sort of underlying allergy in their pet. Dogs that chew their nails or toes is often a result  of an allergic reaction

The most common class of allergens include inhalant/contact allergens such as grass, trees, mold, pollen, ragweed, house dust, food allergies, and less likely flea bite allergies. Mange mites are less common a cause of this symptom. As an initial treatment at home, one can try an oral antihistamine such as Chlorpheniramine or Diphenhydramine, as well as adding an omega 3 fatty acid to the diet such as Nordic Naturals Omega-3 Pet and reassess if there is any improvement over a few weeks. If the problem is year round, changing to a restricted novel protein diet such as duck, rabbit, or venison-based diets can be tried for a few months to see if there is any relief.

Finally if symptoms persist, or worsen, your pet may need prescription medication such as oral antihistamines, antibiotics, or possibly oral cortisone to alleviate feet/nail chewing and biting and the secondary infections. It’s also possible a skin scrape may need to be performed at a veterinary office to make sure there are no mange mites causing the licking and itching. For those clients who truly want to uncover and treat the underlying allergies, often a referral to a veterinary dermatologist is needed who can perform the necessary skin and/or blood tests. However, even with this approach, much time and patience, sometimes up to one year or more, is needed by the animal guardian, as allergy desentization is attempted by the veterinary dermatologist.

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  1. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianJune 19, 2010 at 9:46 pm

    You are very welcome. Please pass this information on to your family and friends.

  2. Can Comfortis and Benadryl be given together ? Will the Benadryl counteract the effectiveness of the flea med ?

  3. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianNovember 11, 2014 at 4:36 pm

    I dont think using comfortis and benadryl will be a problem

  4. My dog lately has been biting his nails . We don’t trim his nails often because he wouldn’t let us do it and the grooming place ( petco ) sometimes refuses him because he is so scared and looks vicious when approached. So we let his nails grow until we have no choice but to trim it . We trimmed his nails thinking the biting would stop but he is still continuing that habit . Is there anything I can do ? I read about Apple cider vinger , that it may help. If this won’t help I’ll take him to the vet because as I’m reading all the articles it says it might be an infection

  5. My 15year old golden retriever has been chewing on one toenail from each beck paw. She has gotten the nail completely off to now infection has set in….I’ve been giving her amoxicillin twice a dat song with an aspirin twic a day. I keep 12 hours in between each dose of medicine and i keep Neosporin on cause and then wrap it with self sticking guaze tape….I change it every night and put more Neosporin on it. She won’t walk on it cause of it being so sore and infected. I have to then pick up her backside. And walk her outside to go per and poop. I clean that sore toe with peroxide and then put on Neosporin on the gauze and tape it on then I put a sock over her badaged foot so she will not bite it…..what is causing her to do this biting of her tonsil way down deep….what can I do here at home to gettiing the chewing to. Stop?????help she refuses to get up

  6. HI Penny. Best to have proper vet exam, etc to more thoroughly evaluate any infection, as may need stronger prescription antibiotic than Amoxicillin. Using Aspirin not good idea either without vet monitoring as likely blood tests needed to make sure no side effects of aspirin. She may have allergic or immune basis to the nail bed issue, which also may need immunosuppressive drugs of steroids

  7. my dog needs his nails trimed badly but wont let anyone near it will it hurt to give him a sleeping pill

  8. HI Iola. I would not give a sleeping pill prescribed for a human, but you can speak to your local vet about possible mild prescription sedatives such as Trazadone or Gabapentin

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