Posts Tagged ‘Symmetrical Lupoid Onychodystrophy’

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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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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In talking with a fellow IWS owner this weekend (from overseas, even!), I realized that I hadn’t written about Cooper’s SLO lately. I guess that’s because nothing is happening.

And I mean that. Nothing is happening. No nails are breaking. No nails are splitting or bleeding. It’s been wonderful. Some of the nails are a bit misshapen, but we’ve even been able to grind all his nails every week, just like we do with the other two dogs. Nothing special.

Well, nothing except that he’s still getting a bunch of medications and supplements every day:

For the SLO:

  • fish oil capsules, 3-1200 mg in the morning and 4-1200 mg in the evening (for a total of 1260 mg EPA and 840 mg DHA omega-3 fatty acids per day)
  • vitamin E, 400 IU, 2x/day
  • niacinimide, 1-500 mg capsule in the morning, and 2-500 mg in the evening
  • doxycycline, 2-100 mg capsules in the morning

For the low thyroid:

  • Soloxine thyroid supplement, 4 mg, 1x/day

For his coat and general well-being:

  • Nature’s Farmacy Dogzymes: Ultimate multi-minerals and vitamins, 1.5 tsp, 2x/day
  • Nature’s Farmacy Dogzymes: Gro-Hair, a source of zinc methionine, .5 tsp, 2x/day
  • Glucosamine/chondroitin powder on his breakfast

About maybe 10 months ago, we decided to just stop with the doxycycline and niacinimide. I just thought — all those antibiotics all the time. That’s got to be hard on his system.

But then, about 5 months ago, we noticed that he was breaking and splitting a lot of nails. While there was no infection and Cooper was never disabled, his nails were ugly and seemed to make him uncomfortable. He spent increasing time licking his nails and chewing off the broken pieces.

So, we took him back to the veterinary dermatologist, who advised us to get him back on the regimen. So we did.

I imagine that he’ll be on all these medications for the rest of his life. We’ve tried different combinations of the various -cyclines, and we’ve tried Chinese medicine and acupuncture. We’ve tried quitting all the medicines and staying with just the supplements. But it looks like he’s not going to be one of those lucky dogs who go into remission with just fish oil for maintenance.

So it’s just better to stay on the program, so that nothing keeps happening.


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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.


Right rear foot, “ring” toe, fully split


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’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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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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Although it’s been awhile since I last wrote about Cooper’s SLO (symmetrical lupoid onychodystrophy), it’s never far from my mind.

Three times a day, Cooper gets medicines. Every day, I’m always on the look-out for another broken nail, another session of determined toe-licking, or non-accident related limping. And awhile back, when Cooper’s coat began to look dry, my first thought was not to wonder about the effects of weather or the need for a new diet.

Instead, it was, “Oh, I wonder if this is a signal for another flare-up of SLO.”

Cooper’s current SLO status

Since last March, when his two front “index” nails were so badly broken, there have not been any new breaks that were anywhere near that bad. He’s had a couple of nails sort of peel, like a banana, where an outside layer of hard nail tissue peels away.

Several nails look very beat-up and irregular. One of these, Cooper started to lick last night. This might mean it has split back under the cuticle and is causing discomfort. If that’s the case, I should see the nail split in the next several weeks.

But it’s not all horrible. Four nails (one on each foot) look beautiful, black, glossy, straight, and strong. And (thankfully, knock on wood, please God) nothing that makes him limp, cry, or bleed.

Medication regimen

We’ve changed his medicines a little bit. We’re still with

  • 500 mg tetracycline, 3x day
  • 500 mg niacinimide, 3x per day
  • 400 IU vitamin E, 2x per day
  • 2 1000 mg salmon oil, 3x per day
  • 2 capsules Permaclear in the morning, 1 at midday, and 1 at night

To that, we’ve added

  • super vitamin B caplet, ground up and added to his food, 2x per day

We’ve stopped (mostly because it got expensive)

  • Si Wu Tang powder, 2x per day

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