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Archive for the ‘Symmetrical Lupoid Onychodystrophy’ Category

I recently got an email from a woman whose dog has SLO:

Hi! I was so happy to come upon your site!! …I have an English Springer…, [we are] sure she has SLO. …We are having a really hard time getting her to take her supplements- I’ve tried multiple ways to get her to take her Omega – disguised in food, on her food, I bought filtered to decrease the odor- so many things-she just turns her nose up. She will eat cooked Salmon but that is it… She has a jaw that is tight and will not let you open and I really hate to force down her. I have left her food down and walked away and it stays that way…uneaten. …I love reading all you have written and so feel like I finally have another person who understands.

I looked back at this post Training Unawares, and I realized that I hadn’t said anything about how I actually trained Cooper to jump up onto his grooming table and take his many medicines. Here is an edited version of my reply to the woman who wrote me:

I am so sorry this is happening to your dog. It is indeed painful to watch.

I’m trying to remember how I trained Cooper to take supplements. It didn’t take long he was jumping up onto our grooming table without being asked in order to get them.

I’m pretty sure that I started out with the best, most yummiest treat ever. For Cooper, that was Yummy Chummies or Red Barn Beef Roll. Cooked or dried liver chunks worked well, too. I would show him a treat, get him onto the grooming table somehow, and then gave him the treat. He could also see and smell the pile of treats on the counter from up there.

That first treat made his mouth water, so it was easier to slip a pill or capsule down his throat. I soon learned that I had to stuff it way back into the back of his throat, or else he’d spit it out.

The thing I don’t quite remember is how I got him to open his mouth for the big fish oil capsule in the first place. I think I must have had a capsule between my thumb and first finger, while holding a treat against my palm with my other fingers. He’d open his mouth because he’d just gotten his favorite treat ever, and could smell the 2nd treat. Then, as soon as I got the capsule into the back of his throat, I gave him many, many treats – maybe even up to 10, one at a time. (They were cut into small pieces.) He soon realized he’d get a major payout for letting me stuff a pill down.

And I probably did not start out trying to stuff everything I had to give him all in the same session. But as time went on, and he was more willing, I reduced the number of treats, and upped the number of pills per session. But I always started with a treat and I always gave him a treat after every pill or capsule.

If your dog is really reluctant, you could start by giving him a treat for just letting you open his mouth a little bit. Then when he’s happy letting you do that (and that may take several sessions to teach), a treat for letting you open it little wider. Then a treat for letting you open it all the way.

Then after a couple of sessions of that, you could go to giving a treat, stuffing one small pill down, then giving many treats. And after several sessions of that, then do treat-small pill-many treats-larger pill-many treats, and etc. Gradually build up the number and size of pills you give over several sessions.

And you have to use the dog’s very favorite, very best treat. And, while you’re teaching this, I think he should get it only for letting you open his mouth and then later, stuffing pills down. The dog may change his mind about what he thinks the best treat is, and if that happens, you’ll have to change treats until you find the next very favorite.

Here’s another idea. Cooper has passed away, but my current dogs will do anything for green tripe. I can get them to eat almost anything if I have it mixed in green tripe. I buy a brand called Tripett, and it comes in cans. You might buy a can and see how your dog likes it. Then, if he really likes it, try mixing your supplement into some tripe. Start out with a little supplement and then gradually work up to the full amount. I will warn you, green tripe smells disgusting, but it’s good for the dogs. (Cleaned tripe or the tripe you can buy in the grocery stores for people food isn’t nearly so interesting to my dogs.)

Hope this helps. If not, I suggest you find a dog trainer to help you. Find one who is good at teaching dogs to do tricks using positive reinforcement. The process of teaching a dog to take pills is the same as teaching a dog to do tricks. You break the learning down into small easy chunks and reward the dog with whatever the dog thinks is rewarding. (Pardon me if you know this already.)

My best wishes,

I truly do hope it helps. Dealing with SLO is never easy, but sometimes there can be learning that makes life better.

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All our dogs have been fed kibble. Our first dog, Kayak, a malamute-mix, ate grocery store dog kibble. She did fine on it, healthy, happy, and long-lived (almost 15 years). Cleo, a Chow-mix of some kind from the Humane Society, also ate kibble. Having lived on the streets, she was used to scrounging, so she also self-supplemented her diet with food off the counters and dining room table. She was a contented dog with a beautiful dark tri-colored coat, who lived only to about 6-ish, dying early of a heart defect – nothing food related.

It was only when we got our first purebred dog, Cooper the Irish Water Spaniel, that I began to learn that there even existed higher- and lower-quality kibbles.

As a puppy, Cooper came with instructions, one of which was a recommendation to continue feeding what he’d been getting, which was definitely not to be found at my local grocery store. So we switched to a kibble that looked pretty much the same as the grocery store brand, but was about twice the price.

But hey, he was my special puppy, and I wanted to do what was best.

As time went, we moved in to more and more high quality kibble. Cooper developed Symmetrical Lupoid Onychodystrophy, and I started reading. In addition to all the recommendations about salmon oil and vitamin E, almost everything I read recommended feeding a grain-free food. So, OK. I can do that. And again, the kibble looked about the same, but cost three times the price of the grocery store brand. Admittedly, the ingredients read much more like food and much less like chemicals. There was no corn, wheat, rice, or any other grain. And there was more recognizable meat ingredients, like “beef liver” and “chicken fat” instead of “meat meal”.

Then two things happened. We got another Irish Water Spaniel puppy, Carlin, who almost right away lost his coat due to skin infections, and I finally got really tired of Cooper’s cycling through seasons of shiny thick coat, then dry woolly coat. Tooey can eat anything and stay perfectly healthy doing it, but for the boys I thought maybe better food might be at least a partial answer to their skin and coat issues. So I decided to try feeding raw food. As in mostly raw meat.

If you’re interested in really jumping into controversy and argument, try reading about feeding raw food to dogs. Try asking a raw-feeding advocate a question, and then prepare to duck. Unless, of course, you’re talking to someone kind and reasonable – I’ve been fortunate to have found several of those. But even so, strong opinions are held in this arena, and a few folks can be quite combative. Based on my reading and conversations, here are some things people apparently want to argue about:

  • Should you feed fruits and/or vegetables to your dogs? What about grains?
  • Can you feed both kibble and raw foods? If so, must you feed them in separate meals, or can you mix them within a meal?
  • Can you cook some of the meat, or do you have to feed it all raw?
  • Can you mix meats in a single meal?
  • Can you grind the meat, or do you have to feed it in chunks, or perhaps even in the form of an animal part or whole animal?
  • Is there a proper ratio of muscle meat, bone, and organ meat? If so, what is it?
  • Is it OK to feed your dog fish? If so, what kinds? And does it have to be raw?
  • Should you add any supplements?

So basically I’ve come to my own answers, and here’s what I’ve been doing for the last six months.

Typical dinner: section of turkey neck, ground beef heart and green tripe, and blended veggies

So far, it seems to balance convenience and quality, the dogs love it, and it’s only four times more expensive than grocery store kibble (if four is an exaggeration, it’s not by much):

  • Weekday breakfast consists of half (by approximate calorie count) very high-quality kibble and half ground meat. Usually the meat is ground beef heart and green tripe, but sometimes its ground turkey or chunks of pork. Lamb is just way too expensive, and I think chicken is too “hot” (in the Chinese medicine sense) for dogs with skin issues. Weekend breakfasts don’t include kibble.
  • Dinner consists of something boney, like a chunk of turkey neck or chicken wing, plus some kind of ground or chopped meat. About once a week I’ll include whole cooked high-fat fish like sardines or mackerel (the dogs make disgusted faces when given raw fish and won’t eat it), organ meat like beef or lamb liver, or an egg.
  • To each meal, I add a vitamin supplement formulated for raw diets.
  • Each meal also gets moistened with hot water, or if I have any, hot homemade meat broth.
  • Dinners also include a teaspoon of coconut or olive oil, plus a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar.
  • About three or four times a week, I add chopped and blended raw vegetables to the dinners, usually leafy green, cruciferous, and/or non-starchy vegetables blended with water and fresh garlic.

I don’t know yet if this is having an impact on their coats. But here’s what I do know:

  • They almost always eat all of the food. (Well, Tooey has always eaten all of her food plus whatever the boys leave, but since I’ve been feeding mostly raw, the boys don’t leave her much anymore.)
  • The skin on Cooper’s elbow calluses has softened.
  • The inside of their ears stay clean longer and are much less gunky.
  • Cooper has much less discharge from his eyes.
  • Less poop.

If I didn’t feed any kibble at all, probably that would be even better. It’s just that I get so rushed on weekday mornings, that including some grain-free kibble has been just easier on me.

So, how much do I feed? I know the approximately calorie count of the ground meat and kibble I feed, and I just adjust up and down based on whether or not I can feel the dog’s ribs. Right now, I feed the equivalent of these amounts:

  • Carlin, 1 year old intact male: 2.5 .lbs of meat per day (plus a bite of apple for dessert, please)
  • Cooper, 8 year old neutered male: 1.6 .lbs of meat per day (sometimes he asks for more, and I give it to him)
  • Tooey, 6 year old spayed female: 1.0 .lbs of meat per day (which she believes is way, way too little)

Most likely I’ll adjust all this as I go along. But as long as I can afford it, I’ll keep feeding mostly raw.

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Yesterday, I read something horrible and shocking. I belong to the SLOdogs yahoo group, and on their email list, a new member posted that her veterinarian had diagnosed her sweet 3-year old dog with SLO.

That’s sad, but not shocking. What was shocking was that the vet advised the member to put her dog down.

I don’t know what the vet’s reasons were, other than the SLO diagnosis, because the member didn’t say. I suppose it’s possible that the dog has other conditions that, in combination with SLO, would make life unbearable. But I didn’t get that from the question the new member essentially asked us: Is life with SLO was really so bad that it would be better to put the dog down? I could almost hear the tears in her voice as I read her post.

Many of us fellow members, including me, answered her with:

  • No, no, no! Don’t put the dog down. Life can be good for a dog with SLO.
  • Find a veterinary dermatologist to confirm the diagnosis and provide knowledgeable treatment.
  • Run as fast as you can away from the original vet, and find someone else.

Then it got worse. The member reported that her dog was scheduled for a biopsy to confirm the diagnosis. My heart broke. If the member agrees, the dog will have most of a toe removed so that the vet can diagnose a condition that a competent veterinary dermatologist can usually diagnose clinically, without needlessly causing the pain and deformity of removing a toe.

I so hope that person finds another vet, and quickly.

And that leads me to the gratitude. I have been so lucky to find that SLOdogs group, and have access to their considerable resources and recommendations.

But even more, I am so glad that our family has found competent veterinarians. The people at Fremont Veterinary Clinic (my regular vets) and at the Animal Allergy and Ear Clinic (my veterinary dermatologists) have been knowledgeable, kind, and effective. And all without needless surgery and death.

And as a result, Cooper has had a great life despite his SLO, full of retrieving, adventures, companionship, and teamwork.

I am so grateful. Thank you.

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Last December, almost exactly 7 months ago, Cooper had a really crummy coat and a bad nail break. After that, we changed his medication regime, and after about two months, both his coat and nails really improved.

So, it’s been awhile since the last bad breaks, but I guess SLO never goes away. It may get better, and it may even go into remission, but it’s always there, hiding deep in Cooper’s immune system and under the fold of skin on the toes where the nails start growing.

As you can see in the pictures below, a couple of Cooper’s nails are in bad shape again.

20130708-144139.jpg

Right rear foot, “ring” toe, fully split

20130708-144152.jpg

Front right foot, “index” toe, cracked but not yet split

His coat is a bit fuzzier and woolier than we’d like, and a touch thinner, but nothing like the horrible shape it was in back last December. And if I were to take a picture of it, you wouldn’t really see the difference between his coat now and how it was when in good shape last February. And fortunately, he still has coat between the pads on the underside of his feet. Back last fall, the coat there was so thin that the skin became raw and abraded from a day of hunting.

We’re still on the same regime as last February, and I don’t plan to change it unless things really get worse. So, here it is again, just for reference if you’re interested:

For the SLO:

  • fish oil capsules, 4-1200 mg in the morning and 3-1200 mg in the evening
  • vitamin E, 400 IU, 2x/day
  • biotin, 2500 mcg, 1x/day
  • vitamin B, super complex, 1x/day

For the low thyroid:

  • Soloxine thyroid supplement, 4 mg, 2x/day

For his coat:

  • Nature’s Farmacy Dogzymes: Ultimate multi-minerals and vitamins, 1 tsp, 2x/day
  • Nature’s Farmacy Dogzymes: Gro-Hair, a source of zinc methionin, 1/2 tsp, 2x/day

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About 2-1/2 months ago, I wrote a blog post about how Cooper’s coat and nails had gone to hell. His coat was woolly and thin, he had a bald patch on his back, and his nails seemed to be breaking one after another.

Cooper's back looking down from mid-back toward the tail - December 3, 2012

Cooper’s back looking down from mid-back toward the tail – December 3, 2012

Part of this can’t be helped. Cooper has Symmetrical Lupoid Onychodystrophy (SLO), and with his history of the disease, that means that his nails are going to break no matter what we do.

But they seemed to be breaking more severely and more often than they had been for several years, and plus, that coat! Terrible.

Skin and coat issues sometimes result from infection or inflammation, so we took him to the vet. Turned out he had a mild staph infection, which we treated with antibiotics and daily Murphy’s Oil Soap baths. Once that cleared up, his skin was better, but his coat was still crappy.

So the next suspect? Diet.

One common remedy for coat problems is adding Omega-3 fatty acids. But Cooper has no lack of Omega-3s. Ever since he was diagnosed with SLO, he’s gotten 6000 to 8000 mgs of fish oil every day.

So it had to be something else.

We got a lot of advice from other IWS owners, and we adopted quite a bit of it. (Thank you!)

First off, we changed his kibble. We can’t feed a raw meat diet, as many suggested, unless the meat has been immediately flash frozen, because of the danger that his compromised immune system would not be able to handle the organisms present in fresh raw meat. He had been eating Kirkland’s Nature’s Domain grain-free salmon kibble. Now we switched to Martha’s recommendion of NutriSource kibble, choosing the grain-free salmon version. Plus, we also kept up our practice of feeding flash-frozen chicken wings and Martyn’s vegetable dog soup.

In addition, Deb had mentioned that she gives zinc to her SLO dog. I’d been reading about the benefits of zinc methionine, a highly accessible kind of zinc. So we added two supplements from Nature’s Farmacy Dogzymes: Ultimate, multi-minerals and vitamins, and Gro-Hair, a source of zinc methionine. (I am not affiliated with this company at all.)

We also changed from his former SLO medication regimen to this:

  • fish oil capsules, 4-1200 mg in the morning and 3-1200 mg in the evening
  • vitamin E, 400 IU, 2x/day
  • biotin, 2500 mcg, 1x/day
  • vitamin B, super complex, 1x/day

If you’ve been reading regularly, you’ll see that we decided to drop the doxycycline and niacinimide. We just thought that all that antibiotic after so many years might not be needed anymore. (And about 6 months ago, months prior to the worst of the coat and nail issue, we had already started giving him a low dose of Soloxine, a thyroid supplement.)

So now it’s been over 2 months of the new diet and medication plan. What have been the results? Absolutely wonderful. Take a look:

Cooper_coat_2-13

Cooper’s back looking down from mid-back toward the tail – February 6, 2013

His coat is much thicker and curlier, the wooliness is just about gone, the bald patch has disappeared, and the tuft of coat at the base of his tail has even grown back in. By itself, that’s wonderful, but the incidence of broken nails has gone way down, too. Last Sunday, when I did his weekly nail filing, not one of his nails was broken or split.

I hope this improvement keeps up. Come this next weekend, we’re headed to one of our favorite training grounds where there will be some water retrieves. Cooper is happy to go into the water naked if it means he gets to retrieve something, but I’m much happier when he has a lush full coat to protect him.

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Last week, I wrote to the IWS list on Yahoo groups that I had a mystery going on with Cooper’s coat.

He has a big bald patch (maybe 4″ long and 2′ wide) on the top of his back, between his hip bones, a few inches head-ward from his tail. The coat loss is also particularly noticeable on the shoulder patches and on his neck, but also on his chest and between the pads of his feet. Instead of thick, tight brown curls, his coat is thin and very wooly, particularly on his back and especially along his spine.

Plus, overall, the coat his body is much redder than before. And he’s lost his insulating undercoat — not good for a winter-time hunting dog. But his skin is not red, itchy, or warm. There is a little flakiness, but not much. He does not appear at all uncomfortable.

We went to the vet, thinking that this all might mean that he’s needing his thyroid medicine adjusted. But turns out not to be thyroid — Cooper has a staph infection on his skin.

Cooper's back looking down from mid-back toward the tail

Cooper’s back, top is mid-back, bottom is toward the tail

Then today, we noticed a particularly bad broken nail — one of those split and exploded nails that look like it should really hurt. But Cooper isn’t limping or crying, or even licking it excessively, so again, he does not appear uncomfortable. He just gently licks and chews at it from time to time, trying to get it off himself.

Left front index toe from top

Left front index toe from top

Left front index toe, from side

Left front index toe, from side

He’s gone months without an exploded nail. And his coat hasn’t been this bad ever. And then there’s the bacterial infection he had in his right ear about a month ago. I don’t have a clue what’s going on.

At the same time, Cooper’s appetite has really improved. He’s always had an on-and-off again relationship with food. Now, he is eager to eat, and even works for treats (which he NEVER did before). Because of his SLO, he has a few food restrictions, including no grains and no raw meats except that which has been flash-frozen. So he eats fish-based kibble, a little blended vegetables, flash frozen raw chicken wings and, just recently we added frozen raw liver. And we just this week switched away from the Costco brand of grain-free foods, just on the advice of some other IWS owners.

He still gets his SLO regime of medications: 6 capsules per day of salmon oil, Vitamin E, doxycycline, and niacinimide plus biotin and Permaclear. And we’ve just started adding a food supplement with zinc methionine in it.

When we went to the vet last week, she suggested that we go back to the veterinary dermatologist to see if a change in his SLO regimen is warranted. His whole coat, skin, and nail system just doesn’t seem to be doing well at all.

But he seems happy. Tonight, while I was giving him his weekly nail-filing-and-TTouch session, he just lay there, letting me first file his nails and than run my finger tips in clockwise circles all over his body. He seemed confident, very relaxed, and not worried that I would touch his broken nail. Which I didn’t. I just looked at it and took these pictures. And sighed.

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Cooper has been prescribed so many medicines and supplements to treat his SLO: tetracycline, niacinimide, fish oil, vitamin E, biotin. Plus, on the advice of some other owners of dogs with SLO, I also give him super vitamin B complex and biotin.

Now, the supplements won’t hurt him. In fact, lots of dog owners give their dogs fish oil for their omega-3 fatty acids, which are excellent for a dog’s coat. Though at 6 capsules per day, Cooper gets quite a bit of fish oil.

But the tetracycline — he’s been getting a 500 mg capsule of tetracycline, 3 times per day, for almost 3 years. That’s a lot. A lot.

And it hasn’t been trouble-free. It’s really inconvenient to space out 3 doses of tetracycline so that it’s given as close to every 8 hours as possible. Sometimes it makes him nauseated. And because calcium interferes with the body’s ability to absorb tetracycline, Cooper can’t get food with calcium in it within 2 hours either side of taking the tetracycline. At his dosing schedule, that means almost no dairy — no cheese, which he likes, and no yogurt, which he also likes and which would also help restore the healthy bacteria in his gut that the tetracycline kills.

I’ve been hoping for an alternative, but one that would not lead to a worsening of his SLO. Some inconvenience, a little nausea, and no dairy is nothing compared to the pain of SLO.

Fortunately, yesterday my vet has suggested that we switch to doxycycline. It’s a “semisynthetic” version of tetracycline with some definite advantages. It doesn’t bind with calcium like tetracycline, so the vet has given his OK to give Cooper yogurt. And best, of all, its half-life is 18-22 hours compared to tetracycline’s 6-11 hours, which means that he only needs to take it two times per day, instead of tetracycline’s 3 times per day. And if all goes well, we might be able to reduce it down to 1 time per day sometime in the future.

So we started the new regimen today:

  • doxyclycline, 100 mg, 2x/day
  • niacinimide, 500 mg, 3x/day
  • fish oil capsules, 2-1000 mg, 3x/day
  • vitamin E, 400 IU, 2x/day
  • biotin, 2500 mcg, 1x/day
  • vitamin B, super complex, 2x/day
  • Perma-Clear, 1 capsule, 3x/day

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