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What happens when a dog eats nail polish?

Humans love nail polish. There are no official statistics on how many households have a few bottles on hand, but it’s a safe bet that the majority of homes in America have several bottles floating around. 

In addition to keeping nail polish on hand and sporting it yourself, you may also put it on your dog. This raises the question, what happens if your dog eats nail polish? Is it harmful to them? 

What happens when a dog eats nail polish?

Nothing spoils a relaxing nail session like your pooch taking a lick and ruining your wet nails. Your dog can also be exposed to nail polish if you paint their nails. Some enterprising dogs will even find your stash, and help themselves to your favorite color. 

Unfortunately, nail polish can be toxic to dogs. In fact, there are even some health concerns for humans. 

The good news is that small amounts of nail polish are unlikely to cause serious effects. The chemicals found in nail polish can be dangerous if your pooch ingests a significant amount or has long-term exposure. 

Nail Polish Toxicity

There are three components commonly found in nail polish and many other products that are known as the toxic three. These chemicals have negative health effects, for humans and our furry companions. 


Toulene is added to nail polish to keep it smooth. It’s linked to several health risks in humans, including headaches, nausea, dizziness and eye irritation. It can also cause birth defects and learning delays in children who are exposed to the chemical during pregnancy. 

Experts say that there’s little exposure risk to a dog who is exposed to dried polish on their owner’s nails. However, the toxicity of eating the nail polish isn’t clear. 


Formaldehyde is used in particle board, embalming, and preservatives. It’s used in nail polish as a hardener. It’s known as a carcinogen in humans and animals. This generally occurs with long-term exposure. 

Dibutyl phthalate

Phthalates are  known to cause many health effects in humans and pets. Dibutyl phthalate, also known as DBP, is used to keep polish flexible. It’s known to cause reproductive issues in humans. 

Should I Be Worried About My Dog Eating Nail Polish? 

It’s best to avoid exposing your dog to nail polish. This means not painting your nails near your dog, not allowing them to lick wet nails, and keeping the bottle far out of their reach. You should also avoid painting your dog’s nails with human nail polish. 

In most cases, short-term exposure will not cause harm. For example, if your dog licks a wet nail, they will likely be fine. However, if your pooch eats a bottle of nail polish, they are in danger of nail polish poisoning. 

Symptoms of Nail Polish Poisoning 

The symptoms of nail polish poisoning can vary based on how much your dog ingested. Gastrointestinal symptoms are the most common, and aren’t always serious. 

Gastrointestinal symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. This can occur due to poisoning, but it can also occur because the polish irritates your dog’s digestive tract. 

Your dog may also drool excessively, which is linked to stomach upset. Gastrointestinal symptoms will typically occur within a few hours after ingestion. 

They may also experience lethargy and loss of appetite. If your pooch seems tired or fatigued, keep a close eye on them. 

Symptoms of nail polish poisoning can be serious. These can occur within hours after ingestion, but may appear within 1 to 2 days after eating nail polish. If your pooch has these symptoms, they need immediate veterinary care. 

These symptoms include seizures, tremors, and difficulty breathing. If not treated, poisoning can be fatal. It’s rare for nail polish to cause serious toxicity, but it is possible.  

Non-toxic Polish Options 

Most nail polishes state that they are nontoxic, even though they contain potentially toxic chemicals. However, there are lines of nail polish that are dog safe. 

You can purchase a line of polish designed specifically for dogs. Pawdicure offers both brush polishes and polish pens. Puppy Paint is also a popular brand. 

Want a polish you can both enjoy? You can choose Pet Head polish. It’s designed to be safe for both you and your pooch. 

Another option is to choose kid safe natural polishes. These are easier to find and are available in more color options. They aren’t specifically designed for dogs. However, both kids and dogs love to put things in their mouths. This means that a kid safe natural polish should be safe for your dog as well. 

In addition to choosing dog safe polish, you’ll need dog safe polish remover. You can find nail polish removers designed especially for dogs, as well as natural polish removers for humans. 

Both are safe and appropriate for your pooch. These types of polish removers require extra work, particularly if you are using traditional nail polish. Natural polishes should come off relatively easy with a natural polish remover. 

What to do if my dog eats nail polish?

It’s impossible to keep a constant eye on your pooch. Sooner or later, they are bound to get into some type of trouble. It’s also difficult to keep them away from everything in your home that’s potentially toxic. This makes it possible for  your pooch to eat nail polish. 

You just caught your canine companion with your favorite bottle of nail polish. What do you do now? 

Remove the Polish 

The first thing you’ll want to do is be sure to remove any remaining polish from your dog’s reach. You don’t want them consuming more of it. 

If you’ve painted your dog’s nails, however, you shouldn’t use nail polish remover.

Removing Nail Polish

The acetone in regular polish remover can cause burns to the mucus membranes, mouth, and esophagus. 

It can also cause stomach irritation, vomiting, and diarrhea. If your pooch ingests acetone, it can be toxic. Acetone is a ketone. It can cause serious symptoms if ingested in large amounts. 

In addition to stomach upset, your pooch may experience excessive drooling, lethargy, loss of appetite, and seizures. These symptoms require immediate veterinary treatment. 

 Non-acetone nail polish remover is also problematic. It can contain the same toxic substances as nail polish, so it’s best to avoid using it on your dog as well. 

If you need to remove nail polish from your dog, the simplest way may be to chip or sand it away. A nail file or fine sandpaper can remove the polish without the chemicals. A mixture of white vinegar with a few tablespoons of lemon juice can work as a natural polish remover. 

You’ll need to let the polish soak for a few minutes before the polish will wipe away. 

You can also choose a natural polish remover. These are typically made from soybean, and should be safe for your dog. 

Monitor Your Dog 

If your pooch has consumed nail polish, it’s important to monitor them. Mild stomach upset, including vomiting and diarrhea, can occur due to stomach irritation. This isn’t a sign of actual toxicity. You can choose to call your vet, poison control, or continue to monitor your dog. 

If you notice more symptoms, including tremors, seizures, or lethargy, seek veterinary treatment. If your pooch has  severe vomiting or bloody diarrhea, these also warrant a call to the vet. 

Don’t Induce Vomitting 

There are many situations where inducing vomiting can help your pet rid themselves of a toxic substance. However, if they eat nail polish, inducing vomiting isn’t recommended. 

Anytime your pooch ingests chemicals, like those in nail polish, they can cause more harm when they come up during vomiting. 

Home remedies can help with many issues, but they aren’t recommended in this case either. 

Contacting Pet Poison Helpline 

If you have any concerns about your pet after ingesting nail polish, the pet poison helpline can help. They have a huge database of potential toxins. They also have formulas that include your pooch’s age, weight, and the amount of substance they ingested. 

They will then recommend a treatment plan. If they recommend veterinary care, they can work with your vet to create a treatment plan. This can be very helpful, and save your vet time. 

The service is fee-based, but it’s well worth it to keep your furry friend safe. You can reach the Pet Poison Helpline at (855) 764-7661.

Contacting Your Vet 

If you notice any symptoms in your pet, it’s a good idea to call your vet, particularly if you don’t contact the pet poison helpline. They will need to know how much of the polish your pooch ingested, how long ago, and the size and weight of your pooch. 

Always follow your instincts. If your pet seems fine, but you are concerned, it never hurts to speak to your vet.