I have an adult male Weimaraner who constantly bites his nails. He bites them down to nubs — sometimes his nails crack and bleed because he chews on them so hard. I have been told from previous vets that there is nothing to worry about and nothing I can do. Is there a reason he appears to be chewing his feet off?
There are several potential reasons for your dog’s obsessive chewing behavior. It is always recommended to give your dog the benefit of the doubt and rule out any possible medical conditions before resorting to behavior therapy. It is also important because behavior therapy is unlikely to be effective if there is a medical reason for the chewing. Some potential medical causes include:
If your veterinarian determines that this is a behavioral problem, the first step is to see if you can identify any triggers for the behavior. Does your dog only chew:
Is there any other correlation you can identify? If you can identify a specific correlation, that is a great place to start with behavior therapy desensitization.
Your veterinarian can recommend medication IF he/she thinks it is necessary, but in dogs, these do NOT work without concurrent behavior therapy which you must commit some time to. Most dogs can then be removed from medication (if they were on any) once the behavior is under control.
Desensitization begins with providing your dog a safe and interesting alternative to the nail biting. When you catch him chewing on his nails, tell him “no” and when he stops (and ONLY when he stops), give him his special chew toy instead and reward him with a “good boy” and a pat for chewing on it. This will be a good beginning, but consider discussing a full behavior therapy program with your veterinarian for the best results.
Dr. Revoir’s veterinary opinion should only be used as an educational guide and in no way should be substituted for licensed veterinary care. Your veterinarian should be consulted in all health matters involving your pet.