Dog claw disease
Symmetrical lupoid onychodystrophy (SLO) is a distressing dog claw disease which particularly affects young to middle-aged dogs. Some breeds seem more readily predisposed to SLO than others. Gordon Setters, German Shepherd Dogs and Rottweilers appear to be particularly prone. That said, SLO can affect any dog.
Claw disease manifests itself by a dog constantly licking and chewing his or her paws. As a result, its nails shed their outer layers and become brittle. If the situation continues, infection can set in requiring antiobiotic interventio. And potentially even surgery to remove the claws!
SLO is rare
But here’s the thing. Symmetrical lupoid onchodystrophy is a rare disease. If a dog of whatever age starts to lick and bite its paws, the first thing you should consider is its diet. Because the chances are that if your dog suddenly starts this unusual behaviour, it actually has nothing to do with any kind of disease but simply an autoimmune response to an underlying inflammatory condition. Yes, if left untreated it might turn into SLO, but at the outset the chances are your dog has an inflammatory condition that just happens to have manifested itself in its feet. Treat the inflammation by improving the dog’s diet and the problem is likely to go away.
A client recently presented her German Shepherd Dog with just this problem. The dog constantly licked and chewed her feet. The more she did this the worse the inflammation became so guess what she kept on doing? You guessed it. She kept licking and chewing her feet which, as predicted, simply exacerbated the problem. And so the cycle continued.
SLO has a simple solution
Now the frustrating thing from my point of view is that the solution to the problem was simple. Supplement the dog’s diet with a natural anti-inflammatory. Something like fish body oil which is rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Do that and the problem goes away. But did she listen? Of course she didn’t. She went to her vet who prescribed something with a fancy name which has an even fancier price tag. And, to make matters worse, told her that her dog needed to remain on this medication for life. And what did this fancy, expensive medication contain? You guessed it. Fish body oil. But not the whole, unadulterated fish body oil. Oh no. A highly processed version which the manufacturer claimed was so much better than the natural product because it was highly processed.
If your dog develops such a problem, please do the most obvious thing first. Because the most obvious thing is generally simpler, invariably cheaper, and almost always so much better. And altogether much less stressful for your dog!