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How to get nail polish off my dog?

Many owners enjoy painting their dogs’ nails. It can add to the adorableness your pooch already possesses. If you have a litter of puppies, it can even help you tell them apart. However, at some point, you’ll need to remove the nail polish.  

This raises the question, just how do you get nail polish off your pooch? 

How to get nail polish off my dog?

Perhaps you just want to change your dog’s nails, or perhaps they got nail polish on their fur. There are a few ways to get nail polish off your dog. Human nail polish can be toxic to dogs. If you suspect they are sporting human polish, you should remove it immediately. 

Dog Safe Polish Remover 

We’ll get into why human nail polish remover is toxic soon. For now, you need to know that human nail polish remover is not a good option for your pooch. Dog nail polish remover can be purchased at pet stores, and online. 

Some dog owners state that this type of polish remover isn’t effective, however. It may not be effective for removing human nail polish. 

Removing Polish From Coat

Perhaps you had an accident when painting your pooch’s nails, or perhaps they helped themselves to your favorite pink polish. Now they are sporting a pink coat. What do you do? 

You’ll want to start with the simplest option, a bath. Some of the polish may be removed with soap and water. Toothpaste can help as well. The slight abrasive quality can help remove the polish. Baking soda and salt can also help to scrub away the polish. 

If it won’t budge, try using Vaseline or cooking oil. The oil can soften the polish, making it easier to remove. Once the polish is loose, a comb can help remove it completely. 

Filing or Sanding

You don’t want to use toxic chemicals on your dog, and you don’t have any dog-safe polish remover on hand. What do you do? The safest way to remove the polish may be by filing or sanding it off. 

Perhaps you’ve been guilty of it at some point. Your nail polish chips, and you can’t help yourself. You begin picking it off with your fingers. Each time a little chip occurs, you begin scratching the rest off. 

Eventually, you may realize that a file is a more effective method for removing the polish in this way. It essentially works the same way as sanding to remove paint works on furniture. When done correctly, it won’t harm your nails, or your dogs. 

The problem is that it’s time-consuming. If your dog isn’t especially stoic, it can be tough to get them to sit still long enough. 

Kitchen Polish Removers 

Supriringly, there are a few potential polish removers in your kitchen pantry. One option is lemon juice. You can use lemon juice in place of polish remover. Just rub it on with a cotton ball, and allow it to sit for 30 seconds to 1 minute before rubbing it with the cotton ball. 

You can also place slices of lemon on the nails, but good luck getting your pooch to leave them on. Another option is to dip a slice of lemon in salt or baking soda, and then use it as you would a scrub brush. 

Another way to remove polish with kitchen ingredients is vinegar and orange juice. Combine them in equal amounts, and rub on with a cotton ball. Allow to sit 10-30 seconds before wiping the polish away. 

Keeping Your Dog Occupied 

No matter what method you choose for removing the polish, you’ll need your pooch’s cooperation. Some dogs don’t mind their nails being done. Assuming they held still long enough for you to paint them, there’s a good chance your pooch can hold still for a few minutes. 

However, they may change their mind when it comes to removing the polish. In this case, a treat or toy can work wonders. Give them a chewy or a favorite toy that will help them keep still while you do your work. 

Can I use nail polish remover on my dog?

You shouldn’t use human nail polish remover on your dog. Human nail polish remover comes in two basic formulations, acetone and non-acetone. Acetone has a harsh chemical smell, and can be harsh on your nails as well. 

This led to the development of non-acetone polish. However, it still contains ingredients that are toxic to your dog. 

What’s in Nail Polish Remover? 

Acetone nail polish remover contains acetone as the active ingredient. Acetone may be safer than non-acetone polishes with harmful chemicals. However, it’s a strong irritant which may harm your dog’s esophagus. It can also be poisonous in large amounts. 

Non acetone polish remover has toluene, ethyl acetate, and methanol. These ingredients can be very harmful to your canine companion. 

Dog Friendly Polish Remover 

It’s best to use dog-friendly polish remover. Of course, depending on the type of polish you use, this may not be effective. Dog-friendly polish remover is made from soy. You’ll also find it in human formulations. 

It’s likely safe to use the human soy polish remover on dogs. Just check the ingredient lists closely. toluene, ethyl acetate, and methanol. These ingredients are harmful to humans and dogs. Unfortunately, even many nail products that claim to be non-toxic have been found to have these ingredients. 

Using Human Nail Polish Remover

Human nail polish is toxic, and shouldn’t be used on dogs. However, perhaps the natural options aren’t budging the polish. Perhaps you are concerned about the toxicity of the nail polish itself, and want it off your dog asap. Perhaps you only have regular nail polish remover on hand, and are determined to use it. 

If you use human nail polish remover, use some common sense precautions. Do one paw at a time. After you’ve completed a paw, wash it with soapy water and rinse. Be sure that the cotton balls with remover are kept out of your dog’s reach. 

You should also have a well ventilated area, and use as little polish remover as possible. 

Rubbing Alcohol

We think of rubbing alcohol as safe. After all, we clean thermometers and sometimes cuts with it. Your grandma will tell you to rub it on your legs for aches and pains, and that a full alcohol rub down will bring down a high fever. So, it’s safe for our dogs right? Unfortunately, no. 

Rubbing alcohol is an effective polish remover. It takes longer to work, but will remove most types of polish. The problem is that it can be just as toxic as nail polish remover. 

How toxic is nail polish to dogs?

It’s difficult to say just how toxic nail polish is to dogs. Opinions on how big a risk it is, and how much is required to make your dog sick, varies from expert to expert. However, we do know that human nail polish can be toxic to dogs, and contains toxic chemicals. 

Toxic Chemicals in Nail Polish 

The most concerning chemicals are known as the big 3. Formaldehyde, Dibutyl Phthalate, or DBP, and Toluene. 


Formaldehyde is also known as embalming fluid. Aside from that morbid fact, it’s toxic to humans, and likely for dogs as well. It’s known to cause allergies,  nausea, and miscarriages in humans. 

Dibutyl Phthalate

Dibutyl Phthlate, or DBP, is a plasticizer. It gives nail polish its shiny appearance, and helps with durability. Unfortunately, it’s an endocrine disruptor. It’s linked to damage to the kidneys, liver, and reproductive organs in humans. 


Toulene is a neurotoxin. It can cause brain damage, reduced brain function, hearing loss, and difficulty breathing in humans. 

Dog Safe Nail Polish 

Dog-safe nail polish isn’t toxic. It’s best to look for polishes formulated especially for dogs. Pawdicure is a popular brand. Piggy Paint Puppy Polish is another option. 

Generally, any nail polish that doesn’t contain toxic ingredients should be safe for your pooch. Piggy Paint, for example, began as a polish for young children. Because children, like dogs, put their fingers or paws into their mouths, it’s important to ensure that the polish is safe. 

If it claims to be toxin free, check the ingredient list. If it’s free of the big 3, Formaldehyde, Dibutyl Phthalate, and Toluene. it’s probably safe. 

Dog-safe nail polishes are available in two basic styles. These are polish and pens. Both are safe for your dog, so it comes down to which one you prefer. 

What To Do If Your Dog Eats Nail Polish, or Polish Remover

Perhaps your pooch snuck into your make-up bag, and helped themselves to your nail polish or polish remover. Perhaps you painted your dog’s nails without realizing that the polish could be toxic. 

If your dog ingested these toxic ingredients, what do you do? 

If they only ingested a small amount, they are probably ok. You’ll need to monitor them for the next 2 or 3 days. If they ingested a significant amount, you’ll need to contact your vet. When in doubt, give your vet a call. 

There’s little information on the exact effects nail polish or polish remover can have on your dog,  but there’s plenty of info on poisoning in general. This gives you an idea of what to look for. 

Signs of poisoning include: 

  • Vomiting
  • Drooling
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Seizure
  • Tremors

If you suspect that your dog is sick from these toxins, get them to the vet immediately. If they’ve ingested more than a few drops, call your vet. It’s possible for the damage to be done by the time symptoms show up.