Daily Express

Rare disease stunts nails

- ● David Grant has been a vet for more than 50 years. Email questions to him at pamperedpe­ts@express.co.uk

Q My four-year-old female neutered German shepherd lost a nail a month ago. I thought nothing of it, but then another broke off and on growing back the nails seem stunted. My vet suspects a rare autoimmune disease and has started initial treatment with an essential fatty acid.

A The disease your vet suspects has a complicate­d name – symmetrica­l lupoid onychodyst­rophy. This just means an abnormal growth of claws affecting all four feet. As you say, it is thought to be an autoimmune disease, where the body attacks itself in a specific region, in this case the claws. Although rare, it is very characteri­stic clinically and is often diagnosed after a physical examinatio­n.

If your vet is right, more nails will be lost and grow back deformed, but there are a number of things that may help.

EPA fatty acid is often the first treatment, as with your dog, and you should know within three months if it is working. If not, other treatments can be tried for three-month periods, including a combinatio­n of an antibiotic plus a form of vitamin B3, and more potent immune-suppressin­g drugs for particular­ly resistant cases.

You can help by gently trimming new nails every two to three weeks to prevent them cracking, and be patient until hopefully the treatment that works best for your dog is establishe­d.

The outlook is good as, although some nails may remain deformed, affected dogs are otherwise healthy.

Q I have a 15-month-old Dogue de Bordeaux that was treated for noisy breathing. She has improved on antibiotic­s but now she might have a tumour on the left side of her neck, and I am worried whether this can be removed. A You mention in your letter that you are struggling to pay the monthly insurance while waiting for claims to be settled. Insurance, however, for this breed is essential as it is prone to a number of potentiall­y expensive health problems.

The noisy breathing may be in part due to being brachyceph­alic ( flatfaced), which could flare up in the future. Arthritis and heart problems later in life might also occur.

But, in spite of this worry, you have found her to be a lovely family friendly dog, and as you say she is your world and you want to do the best for her. Having insurance will go a long way to achieving that aim.

For the tumour on the neck I am sure that removal will be possible. In fact, removal will be the only way to diagnose what kind of tumour your dog has. This would involve sending it to an outside laboratory for analysis.

Although this involves additional expense, it is important as the pathologis­t will be able to identify the type of tumour, how it behaves, and whether a cure has been obtained.

It might be worthwhile talking to your vet about the problem of having to wait for claims to be settled to see what can be done to help you.

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