Why Dogs Don't Like Nail Polish



You and your dog have been sitting together on the couch and he has been watching you as you’ve tended to your nail care. You’ve tidied up your cuticles, shaped your nails, and your clean fingernails are ready for an at-home manicure. You get out the pink nail polish and start painting. Your dog wrinkles his nose a bit, but puts his head back down. When you’re done with the left hand, you think, “Wait! My dog would look adorable in this color!” You go to grab his paw and paint it pink so you two match, but he pulls his paw away and darts out of the room. You enjoy this type of pampering, why doesn’t he?

The Root of the Behavior

Have you ever noticed how much nail polish smells and that, in salons, workers wear masks covering their noses and mouths? Nail polish smells like chemicals and often has toxic fumes. Even if labeled “free of toxins,” studies have proven that those nail polishes contain toxins. The three well known and common toxic chemicals in nail polish includes dibutyl phthalate, toluene, and formaldehyde. These chemicals have been attributed to asthma and developmental problems. When your dog stays away from nail polish, he’s being smart! Perhaps your dog read an article about toxins in cosmetics, or he’s trusting his nose. Dogs have 300 million olfactory receptors and they use their nose to gather a lot of information. The fact that the chemical smell of nail polish is enough to make him run away says that this is probably not healthy for him. His nose is protecting him.

It is a luxury to have your nails done as it takes time and money and you cannot do vigorous work with your hands if you want to maintain your manicure. It’s valued as a beauty standard and a good manicure can enhance your overall look. Matching your toes and fingers is a fun summertime tradition, too. But dogs don’t think this looks as cute as you do and probably doesn’t want to match you, either. Your dog doesn’t get to see the range of colors most of us humans do. Dogs see only a few colors as compared to humans and their colorblindness can be compared to a human who has red-green colorblindness. A dog will see colors closer to grayish brown, light and dark yellow, and light and dark blues, which might lead to understanding why Fido chases a tennis ball. It’s bright yellow and easier to see. Seeing as your dog doesn’t see hot pink or sea blue breeze like you do, he probably doesn’t care if his nails are decorated in these colors. 

Encouraging the Behavior

Painting your human fingernails is one thing because you know not to put your painted nails in your mouth, eat the nail polish, or consume any cosmetics. If your manicure was done at a salon, you probably spent some money on it and don’t want to ruin it, so you’re not going to chip at it. And you’re going to do what you can to make it look good for as long as you can. Your dog, on the other paw, licks everything, his paws included. If he has nail polish on his paws, there is not much, except maybe the cone of shame, to stop him from licking his newly painted nails. Remember the toxins? You do not want your dog ingesting those, even if it seems like small amounts.

Having nail polish open near your dog could trigger his nose to itch and he’d have to sneeze. Your dog’s nose is a powerful tool and he smells things much more strongly than humans do. Nail polish will irritate his nose and could cause adverse reactions. You should not paint your nails near your dog or your dog’s nails. If you do at-home manicures for yourself, keep your dog out of the room until they are completely dry. Chances are he will walk away when he smells it, but just to be safe, close the door behind him. 

Other Solutions and Considerations

If you must paint your dog’s nails, use a pet-friendly nail polish that is quick drying and make sure his nails do not have open sores or cracks. When ready to remove it, make sure you have pet-safe nail polish remover. When you paint your dog’s nails, make sure he doesn’t bite or lick them as they’re drying. If he does, you might not want to continue. Nail polish made for pets often contains natural ingredients like seaweed, aloe, vitamin E, or green tea extracts and come in many colors.

You might need to trim your dog’s nails, which can be tricky. If you’ve never trimmed your dog’s nails, ask the vet to show you how. You’ll want some good dog nail clippers, clotting powder, and treats. Make sure you don’t clip the nail too short because it might bleed. If you use the clotting powder and it doesn’t stop after seven minutes, take your dog to the vet. If your dog ingested anything or even just licked his nails and has an upset stomach, monitor him and take him to the vet if he starts vomiting. 


You should love your dog just the way he is and painting his nails is not encouraged, but if you want him in Vanity Fur and he must have pink nails, make sure it is done safely with pet-friendly supplies. If you are looking to make him cute, matching the bandana or bow to his nails will just be adorable.