Dog Lifestyle, Pet Health, Pets and Family

Can I Paint My Dog’s Nails? Safety Tips for Dog Nail Painting

Dressing up and home manicures complete with painting nails sounds like some fun I used to have with my dolls when I was a kid but why not with your furry friend?

Brown dog's nails painted black and purple with art deco on nails.

Painting your dog’s nails can be a fun way to bond and connect with your dog and get your dog more accustomed to having their paws handled. However, for the safety of your dog there are some things you want to pay attention to if you paint your dog’s nails.

Chihuahua in a white towel at the spa.
Doggie spa days are a fun way to bond with your dog complete with pawdicure!

Can I Paint My Dog’s Nails?

Yes, you can paint your dog’s nails! If you do try and paint your dog’s nails look for dog friendly and safe formulas that are free of chemicals including dibutyl phthalate, formaldehyde and Toluene. Painting your dog’s nails may require some patience as not only does your dog have to stay still during the nail painting but also the drying process. You may need multiple coats of nail polish since each dog’s nails are a different color as some dogs have dark nails.

Is It Safe To Paint My Dogs Nails?

It can be perfectly safe to paint your dog’s nails if you use non-toxic paint and your dog does not lick or chew the nail polish off and ingest it. Conventional nail polish contains harsh chemicals that when used often cause drying or chipping nails, those chemicals are referred to as the “Toxic Tri” or “Big 3” three and are found in many nail polishes.

Those big three toxic chemicals found in dog nail polish are formaldehyde, toluene, and dibutyl phthalate (DBP). However, there are many water based nail colors free of the big three which are safe for your dog provided they do not chew and lick them.

It is never a good idea to use too many chemicals around our pets and a dog’s toenails are no different. Added to that a dog can lick or chew on paws making the products you select even more important.

Chemicals in Nail Polish that May be Toxic to Your Dog

According to Dermadoctor, the Toxic Tri should be avoided for the following reasons:

Formaldehyde Danger in Dog Nail Polish

Formaldehyde is a chemical that is a component in plywood and particleboard, and is often used as a preservative, sterilizer and embalmer. This chemical is added to nail polishes that are also considered “nail hardeners.” Formaldehyde has been considered a carcinogen, linked to nasal and lung cancers, by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

Dibutyl Phthalate or DBP in Dog Nail Polish

Dibutyl Phthalate or DBP is added to nail polish to make it more flexible and less prone to cracks, chips and other annoyances. This chemical however, has been linked to reproductive issues and has been banned in Europe. While it is still approved for use in the United States, many women choose to avoid it.

Danger of Toluene in Dog Nail Polish

Toluene is used to help keep nail polish smooth and even when applied. However, this chemical has been linked to issues affecting the nervous system with symptoms that include dizziness, headaches, nausea and eye irritation. Toluene has also been linked to birth defects and developmental problems in children whose mothers were exposed to the chemical during pregnancy. To date, toluene has also been banned by the European Union, but not by the United States.

These chemicals can also be found in human hair dye and nail polish remover which is why pet owners should avoid those as well and pet groomers that use those products.

How Do I Paint My Dog’s Nails?

You have decided that painting your dogs nails is a fun activity to do with your dog or you simply want to have a professional groomer manage the painting and you just want to hang with your dog to show off his cute nails, either way here is where to start.

Nail polish dog red and pink lying on its side dripping on white.
Make sure the polish you select is safe and free of toxic chemicals

1) Select Your Dog Nail Polish

Conventional human regular nail polish will mostly have toxic chemicals you will want to find a pet-safe nail polish and lucky for you the selections are plentiful.

A safe pick is any water based nail polish or a special dog nail polish like this 0.5-ounce bottle of dog nail polish with a brush from Warren London’s Pawdicure line or Pet Head Mommy or these Warren London Pawdicure polish pens also from Warren London. Polish pens are really handy, quick drying and will likely be the best if your dog has trouble (which most will) staying still.

You can select a one of a variety of dog nail polishes where you can select on of the many vibrant color for fun or in a seasonal pack for a little festive addition to your holiday plans. Warren London describes their products as having only non-toxic natural ingredients, free of toxic fumes and bonus they are quick drying so you won’t have to tackle your dog and keep him still for too long.

Some pet lovers may also enjoy the children’s line of Piggy Paint Nail Paint that is non-toxic and safe and also come in glitter colors.

Some dog lovers also simply use, finger paints which also typically contain non-toxic ingredients due to their being manufactured for children or washable body paints. You may also choose to use oil paints but they may dry slower and still contain harmful chemicals or harmful ingredients. In the end it is best to use dog nail polish rather than these alternatives and do not adhere or last as well as the actual dog nail polish made for dogs.

2) Painting Your Dogs Nails

Beige chihuahua with red bow getting its toe nails clipped.
Ensure that dog’s nails are trimmed and your dog is comfortable with his paws being handled before you start

First, ensure your dog’s nails are trimmed and clean and your dog is used to you handling its paws. Your dog may not be that keen on you handling his paws since normally when you do it would be for nail trims which may be stressful for your dog and are not always the most comfortable for our pets.

Second, secure your dog and keep him Calm.  (Calm CBD from Hemp Chicken Flavored Dog Spray is Great for this!)

Third, apply polish as evenly as possible while keeping your dog still. If your dog has dark nails the experts at Warren London recommend applying a white base coat prior to any color or nail art.

Fourth, make sure that the polish is dry before your dog starts to move around again.  Quick drying doggie formulas will definitely help with this!

3) Enjoy The New Doggie Look

After your dog dons her new look enjoy and grab some photo props (30 Ideas Available If You Sign Up For Our Email List) for a fun photo shoot.

Pro Dog Nail Painting Tip:

When you are done and your dog’s nail polish starts to chip be sure to remove your polish with a non-toxic nail polish remover. Avoid using human nail polish remover as those will again be packed with harsh ingredients. Piggy Paint carries a low odor, formaldehyde free nail polish remover.

Brown dog paw painted toes black and purple with deco flowers painted.
A professional dog groomer may also be able to apply some doggie nail art

If all of this sounds a little too much you can also find special dog groomers to treat your furry friend their very own pawdicure! A special dog groomer may also be able to do some doggie nail art and really take it to the next level for an extra fee of course.

Is Painting Your Dog’s Nails Animal Abuse?

No, painting your dog’s nails is not animal abuse. If you use non-toxic nail polish and are patient with your dog when painting them we do not see why it would be at all considered animal abuse to paint your dog’s nails. It can simply be a fun activity to bond with your dog and be great fodder for some fun pictures while also getting your dog used to having its paws handled and touched which will make the next nail trim, which is an essential part of dog grooming, easier for everyone.

Have fun with your pet watch for adverse reactions and any obvious symptoms which would be unusual if you select a non-toxic, water based polish and enjoy!

More dog grooming tips:  5 Top Dog Grooming Tips You Will Be Glad You Know to Groom Your Dog at Home

Learn more about navigating life with your dog and having fun in Motherpuppin’ Adorable: what to do when your dog is better than everyone else’s a tongue and cheek guide to navigating life with your dog!

Dog Nail Painting FAQs

What can I use to paint my dog’s toe nails?

You can paint your dog’s toe nails with special polish made for dogs. A safe pick is any water based nail polish or a special dog nail polish like this 0.5-ounce bottle of dog nail polish with a brush from Warren London’s Pawdicure line or Pet Head Mommy or these Warren London Pawdicure polish pens also from Warren London. You should try and avoid using humans nail polish due to the chemicals.

Do they make dog safe nail polish?

Dog safe nail polish is available to paint your dog’s toe nails. A safe pick is special dog nail polish like this 0.5-ounce bottle of dog nail polish with a brush from Warren London’s Pawdicure line or Pet Head Mommy or Warren London Pawdicure polish pens.

Can you paint your dog’s nails with gel polish?

You do not want to paint your dog’s nails with gel polish as most gel polishes contain what is known as the Toxic Tri a group of three chemicals that are not good for your dog. There are pet safe nail polish alternatives available that are water soluble and better for your pet’s health.