Can you Use Human Nail Polish on Dogs? Is it Safe??

Last Updated: March 16, 2023

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human nail polish on dogs nails

All dog owners want their furry friends to look their best. But how far are you willing to go to make your pup the shining star of the dog park?

Beyond basic grooming, the world of canine pampering is much bigger than most think!

There are tons of quirky fashion trends in the dog grooming world. Like fashion trends for humans, doggy style is ever-changing! One minute it's frilly bows and dapper handkerchief collars. The next, it's pet-safe hair dye and temporary chalk.

One unique trend that's quickly taking over is nail polish.

Grooming salons all over the world are offering canine manicure services to give dogs a pop of color. Whether you want to give your dog an outlandish new look or you want their nails to match your own, it's not difficult to hop on this trend.

If you're thinking about taking a DIY approach to doing your dog's nails, you might be tempted to use your own human nail polish. But is it safe?

Is Human Nail Polish Safe on Dogs?

To put it bluntly: you should never use human nail polish on your dog!

Human nail polish is simply not formulated to be safe for dogs. Take one look at the ingredient's list on your favorite shade of nail lacquer and you're going to see a ton of toxic additives.

For humans, standard nail polish is just fine because we know not to eat it. Dogs, however, don't have that instinct.

Why is Human Nail Polish Bad for Dogs?

Ultimately, the dangers of human nail polish come down to its ingredients. Even so-called "safe" nail polish products for babies aren't going to cut it.

The entire ingredient list is bad. However, three main ingredients are particularly toxic for your dog.

human nail polish toxic for dogs

The first is dibutyl phthalate. It's an oily liquid that's used in many products beyond nail polish. When a dog consumes it, the chemical will cause your dog to gag, drool, and retch profusely. 

If they consume a lot of it, they will vomit and experience symptoms of poisoning.

The same can be said for the second ingredient, toluene. Toluene is a hydrocarbon that can poison pets. 

Your dog doesn't even have to consume it to experience ill-effects. The strong odor can cause damage even when it's just inhaled.

Finally, there's formaldehyde. Believe it or not, many nail polish products have this harmful ingredient. It can be absorbed through the skin. Formaldehyde has been known to cause cancer in dogs.

If your dog chews on his or her nails, they could ingest some of those toxic chemicals. In some cases, they can experience potential poisoning just by pure contact. Cracks or scratches in the nails can cause the chemicals to leach into your dog's system, which could damage their health.

What About Nail Polish Remover?

Nail polish remover is just as bad as human nail polish.

The active ingredient in remover, acetone, is incredibly dangerous. Not only is the organic compound toxic, but it's also highly flammable. Pair that with the strong odor and you have a recipe for disaster.

Physical contact with acetone can cause caustic damage. Ingesting it will lead to respiratory problems, coma, and possible death.

Are There Any Safer Alternatives to Human Nail Polish?

The goods news is that you can still give your dog a bit of glitz and glam. While you can't use human nail polish, there are plenty of dog-safe nail polishes out there! This is what professional groomers use.

It's completely safe to use.

What Makes Dog Nail Polish Different?

Like other dog products, dog nail polish is specifically formulated for canine use. As a result, it doesn't have any of the harmful chemicals you find in human products.

It works with your dog's body and contains good ingredients like aloe vera and Vitamin E.

Safe to use

Thanks to the lack of chemicals, most don't have that harsh lacquer smell either.

We always recommend using dog nail polishes in a well-ventilated area to avoid any distress from your pooch. 

Some polishes may have a slight smell, but it's nowhere near as bad as human products!

Another big difference between human and dog nail polishes is drying time. Traditional nail lacquers require continued air and light to harden. Gel-based products won't harden at all unless you expose them to pure UV light!

With a dog nail polish, you don't have to worry about lengthy drying times. The goal is to get your pup's nails painted quickly and comfortably. So, these polishes are formulated to air-dry quicker.

As a result, your dog can get on with their day and not view the experience as traumatizing.

What Kinds of Dog Nail Polishes Are Available?

There's no shortage of options out there. When it comes to color, the possibilities are endless. You can choose a vibrant color to match your pup's personality. If you have some creative skills, you can even combine colors to create some stunning nail art.

Dog nail polishes are available in both traditional bottles and pen form. The latter is perfect for artists who want to create fun designs on their dog's nails. The fine pen tip distributes the polish efficiently while still giving you all the control you need to make some art.

Additional nail products are available, too. If your dog has black nails, you may need a base coat. The base coat acts as a primer to cover up the nail color and create a blank canvas for color.

Also available is top coat polish. The top coat can provide a specific finish to your pup's nails while also protecting them from chips and damage.

3 Dog Safe Nail Polishes - Best Picks for Your Pup

We know that you're dying to pamper your pup! Here are some of the best dog-safe nail polishes on the market. Pick up a collection of colors and make your dog the talk of the town!

1. Dog Fashion Spa Nail Polish

Dog Fashion Spa Nail Polish

Available in eight different shades, it's never been easier to give you pooch a signature look. This quick-drying formula is easy to apply. It's great for fussy pups that don't want to stay still!

Of course, the polish is completely safe for your dog. It uses eco-friendly ingredients that won't make your pup ill if they were to ingest it. Not only that, but it can actually improve the quality of your dog's nails.

It contains nourishing ingredients that work to moisturize the nail and nailbed. This is a big plus, as many traditional polishes strip the nail of moisture. With the hydrating formula, you can prevent the nails from getting cracked and brittle.

2. Warren London Pawdicure Dog Nail Polish Pen, Basics & Metallics

Warren London Pawdicure Dog Nail Polish Pen, Basics & Metallics

This Warren London nail polish has no toxic ingredients. It's a water-based polish that's completely odorless. Best of all, it only takes 40 seconds to dry!

This polish comes in pen form. The felt tip delivers the polish to your dog's nails in an efficient and mess-free way. There's no need to worry about spilling the polish and getting it all over you. The polish is safely sealed away.

The pen offers great control over your design, too. Thanks to the quick-drying nature of the polish, you can easily layer on colors to get the perfect look.

3. Non-Toxic Water-Based Pet Nail Polish Set (6 Colors)

Dog Nail Polish Set, 6 Color Set (Pink, Purple, Red, Gold, Blue, Silver), Non-Toxic Water-Based Pet Nail Polish, Natural and Safe, Suitable for All Pet (Birds, Mice, Pigs and Rabbit), Easy to Remove

The Lesotc nail polishes are formulated with non-toxic ingredients. It's a water-based polish that's easy to apply and even easier to remove.

Once the polish has fully set, it's capable of lasting for up to 30 days. But, you don't have to wait the full 30 days to change things up. Simply wipe the nail with a wet cloth. There's no need for polish remover.

These polishes come in a set of six. You're getting a spectrum of colors to create an eye-popping look for your dog. The polish safe for all pets, so you can use it on a cat, bird, or pig if you wanted too!

How to Apply Nail Dog Nail Polish

Unless your dog is used to living in the lap of luxury, getting a coat of nail polish is going to be a brand-new experience. For some dogs, it may not be the most comfortable thing to sit through. Luckily, dog nail polishes are quick to dry. Hopefully, it won't be so bad!

The key here is to reward your pup, be patient, and give them some time to get used to the feeling.

Examine the Nails

First things first, examine your dog's nails. Look out for any cracks or physical damage. If your dog has damaged nails, you may want to hold off on the polish until it has healed. You can consult with your vet if you have any questions about the safety of the polish for your particular dog.

Cut and Shape the Nails

Next, it's a good idea to cut the nails. Using a grinder or nail pile, get a uniform shape that's not dragging on the ground as your dog walks. If you can hear the nails tapping on the floor, the polish will likely chip away.

Round off the edges for the best results.

Trim Back Hair

You don't want your dog's fur to get stuck in the polish! Trim back the hair on your dog's paws with some shears. This will expose the nails and prevent any uncomfortable pulling.

Apply a Base Coat if Needed

For dogs with dark black nails, a base primer coat is a must. Gently hold your dog's paw and apply a quick coat. You may have to do a second coat if the first one doesn't whiten the nail completely.

Apply the Nail Polish Until You Have Full Coverage

Once the base coat is dry, you can apply the polish! Do so gently and make sure that you're praising your dog. If you notice any grimacing or discomfort, give your dog a break.

Don't force it. You must be gentle and show your dog that there's nothing to be afraid of.

Shower Your Dog with Praise and Treats

After the nails are dry, you can reward your pup for a job well done! It may take a couple of tries until your dog is ready to sit still. Just keep on praising them so that they know that the polish is nothing to be afraid of.


A coat of dog-friendly polish can do a lot to take your pup's appearance to the next level! It's also a great bonding opportunity for you and your dog. Take the time to praise them and they shouldn't have any problems letting you have your way with their nails.

Make sure to stick with dog-friendly polish products if you're thinking about adding a bit of glam to your dog's paws. Dog nail polishes are safe and won't cause any ill-effects as human polish would.

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About the author 


Steve is a writer with over 10 years of experience in dog training and nutritiion.

His goal is to educate dog owners about the ins and outs of canine behavior as well as keeping up with the latest scientific research in the field.