Can I Paint My Dog’s Nails?

Can I paint my dog’s nails? It’s mostly my daughter that asks this question from time to time. Whether for a photoshoot, a holiday, or simply to celebrate a special occasion, people may wish to paint their dog’s nails. I’ll tell you today whether doing so using regular nail polish is safe!

Can you paint your dog’s nails? Painting your dog’s nails with the nail polish in your medicine cabinet is ill-advised due to the chemicals in the polish. Instead, you can buy dog-safe nail polish to dress up your dog’s nails & paws!

Wait, dog-friendly nail polish? That’s a thing? Indeed, it is. In this article, I’ll walk you through the differences between human and dog nail polish and explain why one is safer than the other, so make sure you keep reading.  

Can I Use Nail Polish on My Dog’s Nails?

If you’re into pets and you browse around on Pinterest or Instagram for long enough, then eventually, you’ll come across a photo (or video!) of a dog with painted nails. 

Their digits look so fun and cheerful in hues like sky blue, sunny yellow, and neon pink. You see photos and videos like that and think you’d like to do the same to your dog’s feet. 

You can use nail polish on your dog’s nails, but only the kind that’s approved for canine application. 

This kind of nail polish is known as dog-safe nail polish. Some of the brands that produce dog-friendly nail polish are Fancy Finish, Piggy Paint, Dog Fashion, Pet Head, Lesotc, Color Paw, and Warren London.

Some dog-safe nail polishes look just like the regular version. They come in small jars with tall caps that also double as a brush applicator. 

If not a liquid nail polish, then your dog-safe nail polish will look like a big marker. These products for applying the canine-safe nail polish are known as polish pens

Rather than paint the nail polish on, a polish pen lets you apply the pen directly to your dog’s nails sort of like drawing the polish on. 

Dog-safe nail polish is available in a rainbow of hues depending on the brand you choose.

Because there are so many color choices in dog-friendly nail polish these days, If you want to match your dog’s nail polish to your own, that’s possible too. 

Most products are renowned for their quick drying times (usually under a minute for impatient pups), single-coat applications, and chip protection for longer-lasting nails. 

Is It Safe to Use Nail Polish on My Dog’s Nails? 

You’re eager to go shopping for some nail polish to decorate your canine’s nails. Is painting your dog’s nails safe?

If you’re using human nail polish, then no. While the respective formulas differ depending on the brand, human nail polish usually contains the following ingredients, many of which are dangerous to dogs.

  • Micas: Micas are particles that reflect light and add glimmer and shine to nail polish. They’re usually labeled as just micas on the bottle.
  • Pigments and dyes: Yes, there is indeed a difference! Pigments aren’t made from organic materials while dyes are, and the former is not solvent-soluble. Both pigments and dyes contribute to a nail polish’s color.
  • Plasticizers: There are plenty of these in your average bottle of nail polish, including ethyl tosylamide, camphor, triphenyl phosphate, and/or trimethyl pentanyl diisobutyrate. The duty of a plasticizer is to keep the resins in nail polish flexible so your polish stays on longer.
  • UV stabilizer: When the sunlight hits your nails, ingredients like benzophenone allow the nail polish to maintain its original color.
  • Dispersants: Stearalkonium bentonite and stearalkonium hectorite are dispersants, which are technically additives. The ingredients combine the solvent, resin, and pigments so the nail polish ingredients don’t separate.
  • Solvents: When applying nail polish, solvents keep the formula easily spreadable. Then, upon your nails drying, the solvents will evaporate at just the right rate to help your nails dry nicely. You might see solvents like isopropyl acetate, propyl acetate, toluene, and/or ethyl acetate on the bottle label.
  • Resin: What keeps a nail polish looking and feeling like nail polish is resin. One resin is an adhesive and the other is film-forming, which is where the shine in your nail polish comes from. Resins are often labeled copolymers, polymers, or nitrocellulose. 

These ingredients can give off fumes that may be hazardous for your canine companion to breathe in. If you’ve ever inhaled too deeply when opening a bottle of nail polish and felt dizzy, then you know just what I mean. 

Further, if your dog then decides to lick and chew at its painted paws, now they’re ingesting the nail polish. Consumption can be toxic.

Dog-safe nail polish is usually water-based. The manufacturers know that curious and playful pups could try to eat at the polish, so they use non-toxic and chemical-free ingredients only. 

The polish is odor-free as well so your dog doesn’t have to breathe in those unappealing fumes. 

Here are a few methods for telling human nail polish and dog-safe nail polish apart:

  • Dog-friendly nail polish is usually emblazoned with the word “dog” or has paw prints to make it very clear who the target consumer is.
  • The nail polish comes from the dog-safe brands rather than Maybelline, ORLY, Sephora, Ulta, OPI, Essie, and the like. 
  • The label states the nail polish is dog-safe.
  • The ingredients on the nail polish don’t include resins, solvents, dispersants, and other potentially dangerous ingredients.
  • The nail polish is only available at pet stores rather than pharmacies, drug stores, makeup stores, department stores, and grocery stores. 

I do want to note that not all nail polish markers are necessarily dog-safe. Most are made for dogs, but human nail polish markers are available as well, so use the above criteria for determining if the polish is okay for your dog’s nails. 

How to Paint Your Dog’s Nails Using Dog-Safe Nail Polish 

You can’t wait to dress your dog up with their colorful digits and take lots of photos. The following tips will help you paint on a picture-perfect application of nail polish.

Step 1 – Adjust to Feet Touching If Necessary

Some canines recoil if you grab at their feet while others let you tickle their paw pads. 

If your dog is in the former camp, then you need to do some prep work long before you pick out their nail polish color.

Over a few days but preferably several weeks, you want to adjust your dog to having their feet touched. 

In the beginning, you won’t be able to touch your dog’s feet for more than a second or two. Even still, you want to tell them they’re a good boy or girl and reward them with dog treats for tolerating the touching.

Every day to every other day, repeat this. Try to increase the amount of time you touch your dog’s feet. 

Gradually, you should be able to touch your dog’s feet for longer without them feeling uncomfortable. Only when you can handle their feet for upwards of a minute are you ready to think about painting their nails.  

Step 2 – Choose the Right Time and Conditions for Painting

Painting a dog’s nails is nothing like doing the same for your girlfriends or guy friends. They are willing participants who know what’s happening. Your dog is neither.

Thus, you want to time when you’re going to paint your pup’s nails. Ideally, you want your dog to be either very relaxed or very tired. 

I’d say the latter is better. After all, if your dog is relaxed, you don’t want to disrupt that by doing something that could cause stress.

To tire your pup out, take them for a long walk, let them play extra-long at the dog park, or have a vigorous indoor play session.

Where you paint your dog’s nails is important as well. You want them in a part of the house where they’re comfortable but can’t easily escape.

Step 3 – Paint Your Dog’s Nails

Now is the moment you’ve been waiting for. It’s time to paint your dogs nails.

Does your dog have darker-colored nails? Then you might have to do twice the work. 

First, you’ll have to paint a white base coat. Then you can apply the desired nail polish color.

Keep in mind that if you skip the base coat, then the nail polish might not be very noticeable.

For dogs with lighter-colored nails that are white, light brown, pink, or clear, you don’t have to worry about a base coat. Open the bottle of nail polish or the nail polish marker and begin applying the polish.

Which nail should you start with? That’s up to you, but it’s best to work your way from the first nail to the last or vice-versa. 

Step 4 – Try to Keep Your Dog in One Place While the Nail Polish Dries

Next is the most difficult step, which is preventing your dog from running off. 

After having to sit for several minutes while you painted their nails, your four-legged friend may be ready to jump up and stretch out. 

Try to limit their movement just for a couple of minutes until you’re sure the nail polish is dry. Although dog-friendly nail polish is water-based, you still don’t want it on your carpeting, furniture, or other surfaces around the home.

Step 5 – Enjoy Your Dog’s Painted Nails

That’s it! Your dog’s nails are officially painted. How long does pet-safe nail polish last once you’ve applied it?

Although it varies by brand, most dog-safe nail polishes last two to three weeks.

Step 6 – Safely Remove the Nail Polish

To safely remove the pet-safe nail polish immediately, you can use a non-acetone nail polish remover. On the other hand, dog-friendly nail polish will eventually flake off on its own, slowly chipping away as your dog digs, runs, and plays. Ultimately flaking off completely, within a month or two.

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