6 min read

Is It Safe To Paint Your Pet’s Nails?

There actually is a healthy way to give your puppy or kitten a glam manicure 💅

A photo of a tabby cat and her owner sporting matching sparkly purple manicures recently went viral on Twitter, inspiring dozens of social media users to post copycat “nailfies” of their dogs and cats' colorful paws — but is it actually safe to paint your pet’s nails?

Those looking to get in on the trend should be aware that neon pink claws might hurt more than just your cat’s pride, says Dr. Rachel Barrack, a New York-based veterinarian and animal acupuncturist.

No matter how irresistible twinning with your dog or cat is, human nail polish can be toxic to pets, according to Dr. Barrack, so under no circumstances should pet owners paint an animal’s nails with the same product they use at the salon.

“If you want to paint your dog's nails, make sure to use quick-dry pet-safe polish and remover,” Dr. Barrack tells The Dodo. “Do not use human nail polish or remover as some brands contain dibutyl phthalate, formaldehyde and/or toluene which can be harmful to your pet's health.”

These chemicals, commonly referred to as “the toxic trio,” pose serious health risks if inhaled, licked or chewed by your pet. Even regular nail polish without these ingredients could irritate your dog or cat’s highly sensitive nasal cavity, so it’s best to find a brand specifically intended for pets. There are quite a few dog- and cat-safe nontoxic polish and polish pens on the market today with plenty of shades to choose from, so pet owners should have no problem finding a matching hue, if you must.

Beyond choosing the right polish for your dog or cat, pet owners should also inspect the condition of their pet’s paws before attempting to give them a manicure. “Do not paint if there are cuts or abrasions on your dog’s feet or pads that could be irritated by polish and remover,” Dr. Barrack says.

Your pet’s level of self-control is also important to keep in mind before any beauty treatment. “Make sure you never allow your dog to lick or bite at their painted nails, especially with wet polish,” Dr. Barrack says. “If they can't resist chewing and licking at their painted nails then you should remove the polish and refrain from reapplying.”

Some cat owners are eschewing liquid polish altogether, and are instead choosing to apply cat claw caps to their feline’s nails. The little vinyl nail caps come in a variety of colors (yes, even glitter), and are billed by the company Soft Paws as a “completely safe and humane solution to cat scratching problems.” The products are typically used as a last resort to stop cats from scratching by dulling the claws so they cannot do damage to furniture, but they are becoming more prevalent as fashion accessories.

While cat claw caps are not supposed to limit claw retraction or mobility and are designed to naturally fall off as your cat’s nails grow, every pet will react to the product differently. The cat featured in the now-famous Twitter picture appears to have no issue with the claw caps, but if your kitten shows signs of distress or discomfort, you can always remove the claw covers manually.