Lupoid onychodystrophy

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Characteristic appearance of onychodystrophy in a dog[1]

Symmetrical lupoid onychodystrophy is an immune-mediated skin disease of the claw of dogs characterized by separation and sloughing of several claws from claw beds and ultimately affecting all claws[2].

The pathogenesis of onychodystrophy is incompletely elucidated, but allergic, infectious and immune-mediated diseases have all been associated with symmetrical onychomadesis[3]. The lupoid reaction observed histopathologically and the clinical signs of onychomadesis represent an immune-mediated disease of the claw, rather than an actual triggering event of the disease.

A breed predisposition has been reported in the English Setter[4], Gordon Setter[5] and Miniature Dachshund.

In the Gordon Setter, concurrent black hair follicular dysplasia has been reported[6].

This condition presents primarily as a disease of the claws of affected dogs and most dogs present with pad tenderness and lameness[7]. Initially, separation of claw from claw bed and subsequent sloughing is noted on one or more claws, but within two to three months all claws might be affected. Re-growth results in dystrophic claws, brittle, crumbling and misshapen claws[8].

No other signs of systemic lupus erythematosus, such as elevated antinuclear antibody titers, anemia, thrombocytopenia or evidence of glomerulonephritis appear to be present[9].

Histological features of this condition include bandlike mononuclear infiltrates with interface dermatitis changes[10], including basal cell hydropic degeneration, degeneration or necrosis of individual keratinocytes in the basal cell layer, and pigmentary incontinence.

A differential diagnosis includes paronychia, pododermatitis and food allergy dermatitis.

Treatment with immunosuppressive drugs such as prednisolone have been successful[11] as well as fatty acid supplementation[12] suggesting an autoimmune aetiology of the disease. In one study, cyclosporine and fish oil appeared to be equally effective in treating symmetrical onychomadesis[13]. There are various sources of omega-3 and omega-6 available commercially such as Paw Dermega.

Some cases require life-long therapy and intermittent relapses are common.


  1. Grassmere Animal hospital
  2. Auxilia ST et al (2001) Canine symmetrical lupoid onychodystrophy: a retrospective study with particular reference to management. J Small Anim Pract 42(2):82-87
  3. Mueller RS et al (2000) Diagnosis of canine claw disease - a prospective study of 24 dogs. Vet Dermatol 11:133–141
  4. Ziener ML et al (2008) Symmetrical onychomadesis in Norwegian Gordon and English setters. Vet Dermatol 19(2):88-94
  5. Wilbe M et al (2010) DLA class II alleles are associated with risk for canine symmetrical lupoid onychodystrophy (SLO). PLoS One 5(8):e12332
  6. Carlotti DN (1990) Canine hereditary black hair follicular dysplasia and colour mutant alopecia: Clinical and histopathological aspects. Adv Vet Derm 1:43–46
  7. Scott DW et al (1995) Symmetrical lupoid onychodystrophy in dogs: a retrospective analysis of 18 cases (1989-1993). J Am Anim Hosp Assoc 31(3):194-201
  8. Ovrebo Bohnhorst J et al (2001) Antinuclear antibodies (ANA) in Gordon setters with symmetrical lupoid onychodystrophy and black hair follicular dysplasia. Acta Vet Scand 42:323–329
  9. Mueller RS et al (2004) Immunohistochemical evaluation of mononuclear infiltrates in canine lupoid onychodystrophy. Vet Pathol 41(1):37-43
  10. Scott DW et al (1995) Symmetrical lupoid onychodystrophy in dogs: a retrospective analysis of 18 cases (1989–1993). J Am Anim Hosp Assoc '31:194–200
  11. Mueller RS et al (2003) A Retrospective Study Regarding the Treatment of Lupoid Onychodystrophy in 30 Dogs and Literature Review. J Am Anim Hosp Assoc 39:139–150
  12. Bergvall K (1998) Treatment of symmetrical lupoid onychomadesis and onychodystrophy in five dogs with omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Vet Dermatol 9:263–268
  13. Ziener ML & Nødtvedt A (2014) A treatment study of canine symmetrical onychomadesis (symmetrical lupoid onychodystrophy) comparing fish oil and cyclosporine supplementation in addition to a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Acta Vet Scand 56(1):66