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Toenail problems.

Species: Dog
Breed: Mixed
Age: 5-8 years
We adopted Tiger (62lb what appears to be shepard/boxer mix) in May and about a month and a half later we noticed he was licking his foot and limping so we took him to the vet. They ended up removing a split/damaged/infected toenail under sedation, antibiotics, wrap, etc (very expensive). They also cut all his other nails very short and saw some issues with them. He has been going back to the vet almost every other week for a checkup. The removed nail seems to be healing quite well but he still has about 3 other nails that are split and the quick is separated from the top of the nail. He is currently taking a multivitamin and wearing the cone to prevent licking. We wipe his feet after going outside. My concern is the length of time it is taking all of this to heal. Our vet seems to be making no big deal out of this and says they are healing but we are approaching the 2 month mark of all of these issues. He is still eating and drinking but seems to be depressed. No limping. Occasionally there is a small amount of blood from the affected nails. I just want some kind of timeline. Should we take him to another vet? I am very worried about him and the fact that this is an ongoing issue. We want to do whatever we can for him but the vet bills are quickly adding up and I am hoping there is something more we can do at home for him. I have had dogs my entire life and I have never seen anything like this. As far as diet he eats Natural Balance Duck formula dry and canned.


Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

This sounds like a frustrating situation. I have had some cases like this that have taken several months to heal.

The last case that I had like this was a mastiff with a very severe bacterial infection affecting the toenails. A culture (where we send a swab off to the lab to determine what type of bacteria is there) showed us that the dog had a resistant infection. He needed to be on a very powerful (and expensive) antibiotic for a few months but eventually recovered.

Sometimes toenail issues like this can be a sign of a more serious problem such as a type of lupus called symmetrical lupoid onychodystrophy. It is usually treated with doxycycline, niacinamide, vitamin E and omega fatty acids and can take months to recover. Some dogs need to be on lifelong therapy for this. The only way to diagnose this is to have your vet do a biopsy. So, this is something they may consider if things are not improving.

Sometimes dogs with toenail issues can benefit from a Zinc supplement. (This may be what you mentioned with the vitamins), but you have to be careful when supplementing Zinc because too much can cause gastrointestinal issues.

It does sound like your vet is doing all of the same things I would. Hang in there. And if things haven't improved in another month or so you could ask your vet about possibly doing a biopsy.

Hope things improve soon!

Dr. Marie.


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Disclaimer: Although Dr. Marie is a qualified veterinarian, the information found on this site is not meant to replace the advice of your own veterinarian. AskAVetQuestion.com and Dr. Marie do not accept any responsibility for any loss, damage, injury, death, or disease which may arise from reliance on information contained on this site. Do not use information found on this site for diagnosing or treating your pet. Anything you read here is for information only.

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Dr. MarieDr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.

Is an online vet visit just as good as a trip to your veterinarian? No! But, many times, asking an online veterinarian a question can help save you money. While Dr. Marie can't officially diagnose your pet or prescribe medications, she can often advise you on whether a vet visit is necessary. You can also ask Dr. Marie for a second opinion on your pet's condition.