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What is Lupoid Onychodystrophy?

If your dog is continuously having paw and claw related issues, he may have a condition known as lupoid onychodystrophy.  It is an immune-mediated condition that affects your dog’s nails and paws.  It is considered a type of lupus your dog can suffer from and therefore cannot be passed on to other animals or to humans.  While there is no cure, there is treatment and management.  In some cases, the symptoms go away with proper supplementation with very few to no relapses.  Other cases are more of a chronic issue with lifelong treatments needed.  While it is frustrating to deal with, it is a condition your dog can live with.

If you notice your dog constantly licking his feet, his paws bright red and irritated, or his nails growing abnormally it would be a good idea to have him evaluated by a veterinarian.  While the symptoms may be harmless, it could be indicative of a more serious underlying cause.

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Symptoms of Lupoid Onychodystrophy in Dogs

Symptoms of lupoid onychodystrophy can include progressive shedding of the nails over multiple weeks or even months.  There is also pain associated with this problem and paronychia.  Histological findings include a cell-rich interface type of dermatitis.   Symptoms can also include:

  • Feet licking
  • Swelling of nailfold
  • Inflammation at base of nails
  • Pain
  • Lameness
  • Nail sloughing 
  • Separation of the nail from the skin
  • Hemorrhaging of affected digits 
  • Nail may fall out


Lupoid onychodystrophy is also known as the condition symmetrical lupoid onychitis.  This issue is considered an immune-mediated reaction of the cutaneous pattern.  In most cases, more than just one claw or one foot is affected.  This condition typically involves several claws on multiple feet.

Causes of Lupoid Onychodystrophy in Dogs

This condition does not lead to a systemic illness developing in your dog.  It can be called a form of lupus that affects the cells around and from which the nails grow.  In most cases, the condition is not associated with poor diet or nutrition.  It is an immune-mediated condition that is not contagious to you or other animals.

Diagnosis of Lupoid Onychodystrophy in Dogs

Your veterinarian will need to rule out other possible illnesses your dog may be experiencing.  For example, she will want to rule out bacterial infections, endocrine related abnormalities, or even trauma to the nails and feet.  She will perform a full physical exam on your dog in order to evaluate all his symptoms closely.  She will want to note all of them as they will help her come to a diagnosis.  

General blood work and a thyroid test will be suggested to check for abnormalities.  A complete blood count (CBC) and a chemistry panel will test your dog’s organ function and blood levels.  The thyroid test is an additional blood test she will perform to rule out hypothyroidism as nail thickening and issues can be symptoms of hypothyroidism.  

Your veterinarian may want to take a cytology sample of the skin around the affected nails.  She will test for bacterial infection, yeast overgrowth, and fungal infection.  It many cases a secondary bacterial infection develops from your dog constantly licking his paws.  

The only way to diagnose this condition error free involves the veterinarian amputating an affected digit and examining the nail cells with a microscope.

Treatment of Lupoid Onychodystrophy in Dogs

Treatment of lupoid onychodystrophy varies in each case.  Your veterinarian may try him on supplements to help treat his condition.  It has been shown that essential fatty acids, biotin supplements and vitamin E can be helpful when treating this ailment.  Change of diet may also be helpful in some cases depending on your dog’s needs.

If there is a secondary bacterial infection, yeast infection or fungal infection present, your dog will need antibiotics, anti-fungals, and possibly medicated shampoos and wipes for his feet.  It is imperative you continue treatment at home as you will be a major role in your dog’s healing process.  Diligent claw care is important as well as monitoring paw health.  You may have to wipe his feet multiple times a day to try and prevent him from excessive licking them and causing another secondary infection.  If claws are not taken care of properly, your dog may need a form of claw or digit amputation.  If the nail falls out on its own, the replacement nail may grow out deformed, dry and brittle.

Recovery of Lupoid Onychodystrophy in Dogs

Prognosis of recovery depends on the variables involved.  In many cases, dogs respond well to supportive medications with very few relapses.  In other cases, relapses occur more frequently and may even need lifelong treatment.  It can be frustrating for both you and your dog but it is something you can both survive.

Lupoid Onychodystrophy Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Ten Years
Serious condition
1 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Licking feet
Breaking nails

Medication Used

Vit b 3

Can you tell me the recommended dose of essential fatty acids for an eleven kg. dog with Lupoid Onychodstrophy, my vet has him on Viacuten plus 12.5 mg epa per pump.
He is on vit b3 he can't stomach the doxy.
Thank you

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2485 Recommendations

There is no set or agreed recommended dose for essential fatty acids and the dosage may get complicated with having to dose according to the eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) content in the product. I would recommend choosing a product (from a pet shop or Veterinary Practice) and following the directions on the container or speak with a Veterinarian or Vet Tech about the product before use. Some sources put dosage at 18mg of EPA per pound body weight and others in the thousands of milligrams per pound. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Our greyhound has significant issues with SLO. When he had to be sedated to treat actively bleed post dropping nail, vet "quicked" all others. We gave him pain and anti-inflammatories for a couple of days following. It worked wonderfully well! He did not drop any more nails for more than 1 yr.

Our Great Pyrenees Mix was just diagnosed with this. They had to remove 4 nails (2 were lose and bleeding and the others brittle. The vet suggested trimming all his nails back to quicks; under anesthesia of course. Horrifying thought. I hate to see our active boy in such discomfort. It’s heartbreaking!

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10 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms


Hi My Dog Sassy has SLO and over the last few weeks she has been scratching more then normal, her coat is clean and no obvious flees. Could be associated with SLO??

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1068 Recommendations
Generalized itchiness is not typically associated with Onychodystrophy. Sassy may have another reason for her itching, and it might be a good idea to have her seen by your veterinarian to examine her and try to determine the cause of her itching, since I cannot see her. I hope that she does well.

Thank your for your advice - we have taken Sass to her vet and they thought it might be something to do with SLO and gave her a mild (5mg) storiod for about 10 days this seem to help, but meds have vinished and itchin back

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Yorkshire Terrier
10 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

tender footed ,swollen pad

I have a 10 lb. Yorkie. The pads of her feet are swollen and red.She is always licking and biting them. Over the years she had developed a hatred for people touching her nails. Our groom will no longer trim her nail, and when i take her to the vet to have them cut ,they say she holds her breath till she turns blue. Our vet has seen her several times for this problem. We've done antibiotics,anti fungal,prednasone, creams , soaks, and socks. I need help. Please. Nothing has worked so far.

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1068 Recommendations
Thank you for your email. I don't blame Pixie for hating having her nails trimmed if her feet hurt all the time, I would hate it too! If your veterinarian has not been able to get to the bottom of this problem with her feet, it may be time to seek a referral with a dermatology specialist. You might not be able to get her to the point where she likes nail trims, but if they were able to figure out how to make her feet stop hurting, she would be much happier, I am sure.

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Siberian Husky or Alaskan Husky
8 Years
Critical condition
0 found helpful
Critical condition

Has Symptoms

Nails Bleeding
Nails Growing Sideways
Paw Swelling

Medication Used


My dog has lupoid Onychodystrophy, i've taken him to a few vets. He constantly licks his paws, his nails are growing in side ways and bleeding from constant breaking, he usually gets around wonderfully but has been in constant pain and now limping. I feel like im out of options do you have any suggestions?

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2485 Recommendations
Lupoid onychodystrophy can be difficult to manage and can cause irritation for a dog; management includes removal of severely affected claws, vitamin E and omega-3 supplementation, immunosuppressive treatment, antibiotics (if infected) and regular trimming to keep any remain claws short. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Judi H... What brand of collagen did you use? Some use knox gelatin but I may try the gmo grass fed version?

I should also note that this dosage is based on our German Shepherd's weight of 75 pounds.

Our German Shepherd was also diagnosed with SLO. Over the past 2 months she has lost all of her claws. The healing process is coming along nicely though as a result of the following protocol we follow daily under our veterinarians guidance. I hope that this helps someone else as much as it has our Abby.

Collagen Powder: 1 tbsp 2 times a day)
Niacinimide (Vitamin B)- 1 capsule 2 times a day.
Vitamin E- 1 capsule 2 times a day
Salmon oil in liquid form- 2 pumps a day. I found mine on Amazon
Synovi G4 chews- 2 per day

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