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Dog Nail Polish: Can You Paint Their Nails Safely? Vet-Reviewed Facts & FAQ

Written by: Ashley Bates

Last Updated on June 19, 2024 by Dogster Team

well-groomed dog paws with manicure in a beauty salon

Dog Nail Polish: Can You Paint Their Nails Safely? Vet-Reviewed Facts & FAQ


Dr. Ashley Darby Photo


Dr. Ashley Darby

BVSc (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Our pups should be able to enjoy pampering sessions themselves! After all, you likely make time for manicures and pedicures to keep yourself looking your best and feeling top-notch. Our pups don’t have to be any different.

However, many human-based nail polishes are completely toxic to dogs, and you should avoid them at all costs. Luckily, there are certain companies that make dog safe nail polish to add some pizzazz to your pup’s grooming routine.

In this article, we aim to discuss pet safe nail polish products, and what to avoid.

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Why You Shouldn’t Use Human Nail Polish on Dogs

You might mistakenly think you can just get into your cabinet and fish out the color you love most for your dog. After all, how bad is nail polish for our pets really? Unfortunately, just like everything else human-made, it’s not designed for our four-legged pals.

Human nail polish is loaded with chemicals that can be harmful to dogs (dibutyl phthalate, toluene and formaldehyde). You have to remember, dogs often lick their paws, so they are getting it in their mouths often. Unless you like to peel the polish from your own fingernails with your teeth, humans don’t really have the same exposure to ingesting nail polish that dogs would have.

a group of five different colored nail polishes
Image Credit: Maria Lupan, Unsplash

Buy Dog-Specific Nail Polish Instead

Dog-specific nail polish? Yep, they have that. We found two reputable companies, in fact, that carry oh-so-cute paw-perfect colors—Ryan’s Pet and Warren London’s Pawdicure. These trusted brands are some that professional groomers use in their facilities, too!

But if it’s that fancy, how about affordability? Well, it might be a little more pricey than human fingernail polish, but a few colors can likely stretch you a long time in between. You can check out Warren London’s prices here and Ryan’s Pet prices here. What do you think?

You can get as fancy as you want and find virtually any color. So, you can make your pup’s nails match yours—or give them their own style.

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How to Apply Nail Polish to Dogs in 5 Steps

If you want to apply nail polish to your dog, it’s probably easier than you think. If you have a very cooperative dog, you should have relatively no problem at all. But if you have a pup that’s a little antsy, or even not a huge fan of you touching their paws, that will be a little bit complicated.

Here are some tips and tricks on how to get the job done.

1. Desensitize Them

It’s very common for dogs to not like you to touch their paws. It is a vulnerable spot, and they often react poorly. However, you can desensitize them by holding their paws, petting their paws, and just paying attention to their paws so they get acclimated. Give a treat when they allow you to do so, so they start to create a positive association with their feet being held.

Granted, this won’t work in every situation as some pups just never seem to quite get used to this. But it’s certainly worth a try!

Cleaning Dog Paw
Image Credit: 220 Selfmade studio, Shutterstock

2. Have a Helper

If you have a pup that’s a little rambunctious, you might want a helper to hold them still. If you have someone cradling and comforting them, you can easily extend one paw and paint one foot at a time.

You could even have your helper give your dog treats to distract them in the meantime. Often nothing gets a dog’s attention quicker than a crunchy snack.

3. Cut Back Hair, if Necessary

Depending on your dog’s fur length, you might have to cut some of the hair back on the paws to expose the cuticles. That way, you can coat the entire nail without any hair getting in your way and causing a mess. Plus, it exposes their freshly painted toenails so they can sport them around.

Be very careful, as this area can be sensitive. Use appropriate restraints and adequate clippers or grooming scissors.

Clipping Dog Paw Hair Grooming
Image Credit: RavenaJuly, Shutterstock

4. Prevent Paw Licking During Application

When you are applying fingernail polish, make sure to prevent the dog from licking their paws at all. Nail polish for pets usually dries very quickly, so you should make sure it is dry to the touch before you let them investigate with their tongue.

Even though pet-specific polish is non-toxic to your dog, it still messes up your paint job if they lap it up before you’re finished. Chances are, they don’t want to stick around for round two.

Try distracting them with a nice chew or treats. Failing that, an Elizabethan collar may do the trick. We know, the cone of shame. So sad. But sometimes, it can be the only way to help your pup refrain from paw-licking or panicking during application. They might feel like it’s a punishment, but in all reality, it’s simply a mechanism to keep them safe, and to help you achieve your goal.

5. Take Your Dog to the Groomer

You certainly don’t have to do it yourself if you’re feeling a little iffy about doing it at home. Book a grooming session for your pup. They can get all pampered up and smelling fresh, coming home with a beautifully painted set of nails.

Your groomer will have all of the supplies on hand to get the job done in an efficient manner and you won’t have to thrash around with your pup at home trying to convince them to let you finish their last three toes.

Shiba Inu dog paw groom nail polish
Image Credit: BY-_-BY, Shutterstock

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Now you understand that there is absolutely pet-safe nail polish on the market. You do have to be selective and make sure that it has all pet-safe ingredients in it before purchasing.

If you are feeling a little apprehensive about doing this at home, you can always book a session with your groomer and just allow a professional to take the reins. No matter how you choose to do it, you can ensure your pup looks as fresh as the day is long.

See also:

Featured Image Credit: BY-_-BY, Shutterstock

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