Lupoid Onychodystrophy in Dogs

Written By hannah hollinger
Published: 03/15/2017Updated: 01/12/2022
Veterinary reviewed by Dr. Linda Simon, MVB MRCVS
Lupoid Onychodystrophy in Dogs - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

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, or his nails growing abnormally and breaking, 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 Lupoid Onchodystrophy and paronychia (an infection).  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 is 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 and fungal infection.  In many cases, a secondary bacterial infection develops from your dog constantly licking his paws.  

Sometimes, the P3 digit is amputated and analysed to confirm diagnosis, but not all vets advocate this and some only advise doing this if cancer is suspected.

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 or your dog is severely affected, 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.

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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


German Shepherd




5 Years


27 found this helpful


27 found this helpful

Hi my 5 year old german sheppard was diagnosed with SLO about 2 years ago .It started with a broken claw that would not heal. Then 4 more toes and nails started showing signs, he ended up were he almost chewed 2 of the tips of his toes off, this was while he was on steroides and also antibiotics. He has now started with another flare up ending up with open sores on his pads

Sept. 7, 2018

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4 Years


14 found this helpful


14 found this helpful

My pet has the following symptoms:
Broken Nails
I have a pup who is 4.5 year old mixed breed, about 15 lbs. A month ago, he lost a claw after a particularly active trip to the park. It pulled off quite easily, like a loose tooth in a kid, with absolutely no bleeding. We disinfected and bandaged it daily until the new claw began to grow in. His nails were fairly long at the time, but he had a grooming two weeks ago, so they have been recently trimmed. We thought nothing of it and had experience it one time before about 2.5 years ago when his dew claw fell off after playing vigorously. Now, we returned home from an afternoon at the park today and have found that the same claw on the opposite paw is extremely loose as the other one was a month ago, even though his nails have been much more recently trimmed. I have been googling to see if this is more than a coincidence and I am wondering if you think we should be concerned about a larger cause. He is otherwise perfectly healthy and active. He exhibits no signs of any pain expect direct contact with the injured nail and even that is not causing him to limp. His nails are mostly black, but he has always had some whiteish stripes on a few of them. Not sure if that is normal or any indicator of an issue?

Aug. 16, 2018

14 Recommendations

Nail disorders may be caused by a variety of different causes which may include nutritional deficiency, trauma, autoimmune disease, infections among other causes; without examining Maximus I cannot say whether there is a serious underlying cause or not. Ensure that he is fed a diet suitable for age and breed as well as getting some omega 3 and vitamin E supplements for dogs (not human ones); also visit your Veterinarian for a general examination as well to rule out other possible causes. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 16, 2018

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