This afternoon, Russ took Cooper into the vet to have a piece of broken nail trimmed off. It turned out to be more than the vet tech wanted to handle, so the tech called in the veterinarian. One thing led to another, and Cooper was lightly sedated so that the vet could remove the nail shell from one of his front toes.
Cooper after toenail surgery
This is just the latest chapter in a long story that has been going on since at least January 2009 when Cooper was almost 2. That’s when we discovered the first broken nail. The top of one nail on one of his front feet had split and lifted up. Picture the hood of a car lifted up — that’s what it looked like. But where the engine would be in a car, was the poor, pink, pulsing quick.
We thought it was just a broken nail, split on one of his romps. We got it trimmed off, and forgot it.
But then another nail split and then another one. Whole pieces of nail shell would hang on by a cuticle at the nail bed. Then Cooper would chew the pieces off, or, if he let us, we’d trim them off. Sometimes they split top from bottom; other times side from side.
It obviously hurt. And a new one would break every month or so. Earlier this week was the worst. One nail split, but the shell wouldn’t come off all the way, and he wouldn’t let us near it. He tried to lick it off himself, but every lick hurt. He lay on the bed, licked his toe and cried: lick, cry; lick, cry; lick, cry. Over and over again.
Cooper’s nails break, not because he’s romping and catching them on something, but because he has a disease, called Symmetrical Lupoid Onychodystrophy (SLO). It’s an auto-immune condition in which the immune system attacks the nails. It’s not known exactly what causes it — probably something genetic, triggered by something in the environment.
All dog breeds can get it, though greyhounds are noted for it. Mixed breed dogs get it, too. Raw-fed dogs get it just as kibble-fed dogs do. Some say that hypothyroid might be implicated; others notice that dogs with perfectly normal thyroid function, like Cooper, get SLO. It’s not a bacterial, viral, or fungal infection, though a broken nail can become infected. There’s no clear link to vaccinations, other diseases, activity, trauma, or anything identifiable in the environment.
And the heredity factor isn’t even clear. Neither of Cooper’s parents suffered from it, and the owners of those dogs had not heard of the disease in any of Cooper’s fore-bearers, either.
I can’t get Cooper to let me take pictures of his feet when he has a broken nail, but another blogger has a more cooperative dog. If you want to see what it looks like, take a look at http://blackschutzhundshepherds.blogspot.com/2009/08/horrors-of-slo-symmetrical-lupoid.html. These pictures were taken after the quick has begun to shrivel, so you won’t see the pulsing pink quick under the freshly broken nail.
If you think your dog might have SLO, do at least these two things: join the SLOdogs Yahoo group and go see a veterinary dermatologist. The people on the yahoo group have a wealth of information and experience, and there’s a good chance your regular vet will never have seen SLO. I’d also suggest you talk to your dog’s breeder — I did that, and received wonderful support and help from both Rosemary and Tammy.
It’s heartbreaking to see my beloved boy suffer, and the more so because there’s nothing I can do to fix it. I have been mostly silent all this time. I kept hoping it would clear up or go into remission. But keeping quiet has kept me isolated from other people, and it’s made me feel like I’ve left out an important part of this blog about my life with Cooper.
Now I hope I’ll hear from some of you.
Read Full Post »