Symmetrical lupoid onychodystrophy (SLO) is an unusual condition that can affect a dog's claws. The disease causes several painful symptoms that can cause crippling pain for your family pet, so it's important to learn what to do if your dog experiences the condition. Learn more about the causes and symptoms of SLO, and find out what treatment options are available to your dog.
SLO is an inflammatory condition that occurs when your dog's immune system turns against itself. Veterinary scientists don't know what causes the condition, but certain breeds are at higher risk of SLO. German Shepherd dogs are at particularly high risk, and the owners of these dogs report the symptoms more commonly than a lot of other breeds.
A dog's claw consists of several layers. The outer layer is hard, dead material that your vet will trim away, or, in many cases, will simply wear away when you exercise your dog. The central layer (the quick) is where you will find the nerves and blood supply, and the claw grows from the root, which is deep inside the animal's toe.
SLO initially affects the root. Unfortunately, you probably won't notice this because the problem occurs for several months before the visible part of the affected claw grows out.
When the damaged nail grows out, your dog may experience several symptoms. The claw often separates, splits from the quick and lifts up from the dog's foot. The nail may also change colour and take on a distorted form. Eventually, the dog will normally lose the claw completely.
Dogs with the condition can experience a lot of pain. You may see visible oozing or bleeding around the base of the nail. You may also notice an unpleasant smell, particularly if an infection sets in. In turn, the animal is likely to limp and become lame.
Absolute diagnosis of SLO is tricky because a vet will need to take a biopsy of the affected toe. To do this, he or she must actually amputate the toe, so most vets will simply recommend treatment based on a visual inspection of the animal's foot.
Your vet will normally recommend a high dose of essential fatty acids, combined with strong antibiotics. The fatty acids help tackle the inflammation that the autoimmune reaction causes, helping to ease some of the painful symptoms your dog has to endure. Talk to your vet about the right fatty acids to use, as some products like flaxseed oil are less effective in dogs.
Meanwhile, the antibiotics will tackle any nail bed infection and may help save the affected claws. Infection prevention is important because the problem can spread into the toe, which could eventually lead to amputation. You can also help avoid infections by bathing the dog's paw in warm salt water after exercise.
Your animal surgeon cannot cure SRO, and affected dogs may experience recurring symptoms. Nonetheless, with prompt, rigorous treatment, you and your vet can work together to prevent the painful symptoms that plague animals diagnosed with SRO.
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