Leslie - I thought I'd read about something like this before and so I did a search and found this on vetinfo.com:
The breeds that appear to be most commonly affected by lupoid
onchodystrophy are rottweilers and greyhounds, so given this it is a good
idea to maintain a high degree of suspicion for this condition. German
shepherds and giant schnauzers may also be affected more commonly than
other breeds. The nails are usually painful prior to falling off and the
toe remains painful for a few days to several weeks after the nails fall
off, at least in the cases we have seen. I don't know about all dogs, but
our dog was pretty sensitive about having her toes touched for the rest of
her life, although it didn't seem like they were constantly in pain. More
like she remembered the pain for a long time.
The only way that I know of to diagnose the problem is to biopsy an
affected nail bed. There is a description of how to do this in one of the
Clinics of North America and that would be worth looking into if you would
consider biopsy, because the alternative technique is removal of the last
digit of an affected to to get a biopsy specimen and I would be really
reluctant to do that. If this does progress to other nails it is also
reasonable to assume that this condition is present and treat for it, at
least in my opinion.
I have not seen any indication that this is a nutritionally related
problem, except that some dogs with food allergies are reported to lose
toenails if there is severe inflammation of the feet but I don't think that
just nail bed inflammation occurs much with food allergies. Treatment could
be considered to be nutritional, though. Many dogs are reported to respond
to high doses of omega n-3 fatty acid supplementation. High dose is about
18mg/lb of body weight or about 1 capsule of most of the fatty acid
supplements per 10 lbs of body weight. This is a usually much higher than
the dose recommended on the label.
Other treatments that sometimes work, and are currently used in addition to
fatty acid supplementation are pentoxyfilline (Trental Rx) administration
at 10mg/kg or 400mg/dog once a day or once every other day; niacinamide
and tetracycline administration (usually 500m of each medication given two
to three times a day) and corticosteroids at immunosuppressive dosages. The
corticosteroids should be a last resort because often the other medications
work if given for at least a couple of months.
Antibiotics are not usually helpful but it is hard to resist using them,
especially for the first one or two nails when it is tempting to hope that
the problem is a nail bed infection.
My impression is that this is a discrete condition that is an immune system
disorder. This would put it in the same class of problems as systemic lupus
erythematosus and phemphigus disorders but I think it is considered to be a
completely separate entity. I'm not absolutely certain of that, though.
I don't know what to tell you about the long term situation with this
condition. We did not keep our rottweiler on medications long term because
we didn't see much response to the tetracycline/niacinamide protocol and
the dosage of fatty acids we used was too low by today's standards and
perhaps consequently they didn't seem to help much, either. I didn't want
to keep her on steroids, so we just treated her when the nails were
painful. She lost all her nails over the course of about a year or two and
and then was comfortable but nail-less for the rest of her life. So our
experience with treating one dog was that she did OK without long term
medication as long as you consider having almost no toenails (she had short
stubs) acceptable. I am not sure that this would be acceptable in a
greyhound since they seem to dig their toes in more when they walk, but
again I am not sure of this, either.
Mike Richards, DVM