Snøfte (b. 2003) has the autoimmune illness called Symmetrical Lupoid Onychodystrophy (also known as SLO). It is an illness in dogs where the body’s immune system does not recognize its own nail band, and tries to get rid of it by cutting the blood flow to that area. The result is nails that split easily, get hollowed out or loosen. Many dogs get the characteristic lifted nails, the nails don’t fall off right away but pop up, exposing the quick. It is extremely painful, and in severe cases can affect all nails on all the paws at once. It is a chronic illness and can not be cured, but can be managed. It can also sometimes go into remission for shorter or longer periods. The illness is most likely caused by a combination of factors, both genetic and environmental. It is often treated with cortisone/prednisone tablets. Snøfte has tried this, but gets severe side effects, so I have had to try other ways to cope with his illness. He has had the illness probably since he was 4. I did not know anything about SLO when he came to me. I have found that his condition (medium to mild in severity) can absolutely be dealt with without prednisone. The only secure way of diagnosing SLO is to get a biopsy analysis of one nail. This is painful for the dog, and many vets find it unnecessary. Snøfte displays so many symptoms that his vet is convinced it is SLO.
From my research on SLO I have found that the cause is believed most likely to be genetic, but that the disease is triggered by intolerance of certain foods and possibly other environmental issues. This explains why most dogs develop it around 3+ years of age. Very few young dogs display the symptoms. Most likely the main problem is chicken (but possibly also grain). Almost all dog food and treats on the market has chicken as its main protein source. It is cheap. Even if the food has a different flavor indicated on the packet, this is most likely just chicken mixed with an artificial flavoring.
I have tried a bunch of different things, but in the last year or so I only give fish oil, and biotin/ Onychotin and something we have in Norway called Maximun (it calms down the dog’s emergency immune system, and strengthens the regular immune system, crates more of a balance. SLO is the body’s emergency immune system attacking itself, so it needs to be toned down). This, along with a strict diet has worked really well. His nails are usually in a good condition most of the year. They tend to split, and loosen and bother him only during the summer months, but way less than when I got him. I have also been recommended to use a probiotic supplement and vitamin c (in powder form). I have used this from time to time, and it seems to work well. But SLO can be expensive to deal with, and you have to try out different things in the beginning until you find the combo that works for your dog.
With a SLO dog it is important to find a knowledgeable vet, that is interested in working with you long-term. There is no quick fix, but absolutely worth it! Be patient. You probably will not see any major results in the first 3-6 months, but they will come! It takes a dog’s nail ca 3 months to grow from the root and out to where it is visible. From there it takes about 6-12 months for the new nail grow all the way out to the tip of the nail. Some dogs seem to be more comfortable with short nails. I take my dog to the vet to get his nails clipped regularly. He is nervous about his nails, and I don’t want to be the source of any such negative feelings. Better have them be associated with the vet. I usually get his nails clipped every 6-8 weeks.
SLO is such a rare condition, it’s important to exchange questions, worries and information! Here are some helpful links for more information:
Basic info on SLO
Mailing list for owners of dogs with SLO. This is a very active self help group, mostly american participants.