Why Do Dogs Eat Their Nail Clippings?

Why Do Dogs Eat Their Nail Clippings?

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When you trim your dog’s nails, do you have a hard time keeping them away from the clippings?

You’re not alone!  It’s not unheard of for dogs to want to eat their nails.  Actually, some owners would even describe this behavior as an obsession of their furry friends.  Even though this is a common behavior, it’s always important to understand why your dog might be doing this!

So why do dogs eat their own nail clippings?

Often, dogs eat their nail clippings because they smell too good to resist.  It’s also possible that dogs eat their nails because they have a nutritional deficiency, or they suffer from Pica.  Maybe your dog is just chewing on the nails and not even eating them!

We will try to figure out what’s going on with your dog and why they are eating their own nails!

How Are Dog’s Nails Different From People’s?

Before we start discussing nails, it’s important to know how dog nails differ from human nails.

Both dog and people nails are made up of keratin and contain minerals.  Dog nails are thicker and stronger than people’s nails.  In the picture below from Animal Trust, you can also see how dog nails have a long quick inside of them.

This quick or live tissue area is the part that will bleed when nails are cut too short!  If you’ve ever given too good of a nail trim, you’ve probably seen this for yourself.

Now that we understand the anatomy of a dog nail better, we can start to find out why your pet wants to eat them!

Reason 1: Nails Smell So Good!

One of the most enriching activities for your furry friend is to smell.  Scientists guess that dog’s senses of smell are up to 10,000 times better than our own.  Dogs get so much feedback just by smelling something- whether that’s your breath, your freshly made bed, or their own nails!

Dogs can understand more than the feel, taste and scent of something by sniffing it.  They can also get information about where something has been, who it was with, and how long it was there.

So, how does this explain why your dog might be eating their own nail clippings?

Well, your dog’s nails smell just as good as their feet do!  And their feet, wow!  Their feet smell amazing to them.  Imagine all of the places your dog’s feet have been and how interesting they could smell to them.

It’s easy to imagine that your dog could be eating their nail clippings because they are just fascinated by them.  They smell so good they really can’t resist!

Reason 2: Your Dog Could Have Pica.

We don’t want you to worry too much!  But there is a small chance your dog might be dealing with Pica.

Pica is a disorder that both humans and animals can suffer from!  Pica in dogs displays in dogs as a dog craving or eating a non food item.   Dogs with Pica will eat anything from tennis balls to blankets and towels.   Pica is diagnosed by a veterinarian who observes these behaviors in your dog.  After diagnosis, your veterinarian would work with you to determine the cause and solution for this disorder.

Do nail clippings count as an item that would indicate your dog has Pica?

It’s hard to say yes or no.  If your dog combines the behavior of eating their nails along with eating other non-food items, it might be time for you to consult a vet!

Reason 3: Your Dog Might Have a Nutritional Deficiency.

Interestingly enough, dogs aren’t the only ones who might eat their nails from time to time.  You, yes I’m looking at you, might be guilty of doing this too!

So why are we bringing this up?

Well, there are studies in humans that link chewing and eating their nails to a nutritional deficiency.

Human nails are rich in Magnesium, Calcium, and Zinc.  It is thought that when people constantly bite and chew their nails, they may be facing a deficiency in one or more of these minerals.

Just like people nails, dog nails are made up of keratin, and also contain minerals.  If your dog is constantly obsessing over eating their nail clippings, they may be deficient in some mineral that is easily found in their nails. 

Animals bodies can be very good at regulating things like vitamin and mineral deficiency.  Chickens, for example can be seen eating the egg shells of recently hatched eggs.  These shells provide a healthy source of calcium for the birds.

Dogs may decide to lick unusual items to make up for a lack of nutrition and certain types of flooring are especially common for dogs.

So if you think this is the reason your dog is eating their nail trimmings, it might just be your pet’s natural way of self regulating calcium intake!

Reason 4: Your Dog Is Just Chewing, Not Eating!

If you suspect your dog is also trying to nibble on their nails while they are still attached to their feet, maybe your dog isn’t interested in eating the nails.  Perhaps your pet is more concerned with the act of chewing on the nails.

This is an important distinction.  Maybe you never see your dog eating the nails, you just see them and hear them biting at their nails.  If that’s the case, your dogs nails might just be too long, or they might be expressing some level of anxiety.

Not only do humans bite their nails when they are deficient in nutrients, for the most part people bite their nails when they’re stressed out.  Dogs, also fall victim to this behavior.  If your dog is suffering from anxiety, they may start to nibble at their claws as a way to relieve stress.

Like we mentioned above, you dog could also chew their nails because they’re too long!  This video shows a great example of a dog chewing and then eating it’s own nails.  The owners comment that the dog won’t allow them to trim his nails, so the dog does this instead!

Did you see how intent the dog was on biting it’s nails?

If you think your dogs is chewing, not eating the nails because they are too long, well, thats an easy fix!  The best way to keep your dog’s nails at a good length is to trim a little bit of the nail regularly.  This allows you to keep their quick short, and of course their nails short.

An easy way to tell that your dog’s nails are too long is if they make sound when they walk.  If you can hear your dog’s nail tapping on the floor with every step they take, they’re too long.  Beyond that, the nails should especially never grow so long that they grow into the pad of the dog’s paw.

Hopefully, if your dog is just biting their nails, you will be able to resolve this issue in no time!

So, Why Is Your Dog Eating Their Nail Clippings?

Your dog might be obsessed with snacking on toenails because they smell delicious!  They also could be suffering from some small mineral deficiency.  It’s possible that your dog eats more objects than just nails, and has Pica.  And lastly, your dog might not be eating their nails at all, but rather chewing on them!

Should You Allow It?

So now what?  You’ve probably decided by now why you think your dog eats their nails, but what can you do about it?  Should you worry?

Overall this behavior is not a large concern for dogs or their owners.

Think about how often people ingest their nails!  We know it’s gross, but it’s true!  Of course people who eat their nails are totally fine.  Even though nails are not digestible, they won’t cause any stomach issues for your pet.  Usually, they will just go in one end and out the other, if you know what we mean.

One complication that could come from eating nail clippings is that the sharp edges of a clipped nail could cut your pup’s mouth when they eat it!

If you are worried about this possibility, we suggest clipping nails over a trash pin or paper towel, and making sure to remove the clippings from your dog’s reach as soon as possible.

And, if you think this behavior might be linked to something more serious, like a disease or nutritional deficiency, we always recommend taking a trip to the vet!  Even though your dog might not like it, it’s the best way to figure out if something might really be wrong.

What’s The Takeaway?

There are some interesting reasons why your furry friend loves to snack on nails.  Most likely, they just want a delicious treat.  If something else is going on, your vet can help diagnose it, and come up with a solution.  Even though it might be gross, it’s probably just fine to let your pup eat their nails!