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Dr. Andy
Dr. Andy, Medical Director
Category: Dog Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 30036
Experience:  UC Davis graduate, emphasis in dermatology, internal medicine, pain management
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My dogs nails have been cracking and breaking off in the past

Resolved Question:

My dog's nails have been cracking and breaking off in the past month. All of a sudden she has almost no nails! I noticed she had been licking and chewing at her nails, so I'm thinking maybe it is a fungus problem or a food allergy? She dislikes having her paws touched, so I haven't been able to take a really good look at them unless she is almost asleep. From what I can tell, the nails that fell off had a darkish discoloring on the underside of the nail. She hasn't had any pain with them, except for breifly when two broke while she was running. otherwise she walks on them fine and runs around like normal. Do you know what might be causing this? We have changed her food a few months ago, if that helps. Previously we were making her food at home with meat, veggies and vitamins added. Now she is eating a mix of dry food and wet food. We plan to go back to making her food ASAP. thank you!
Submitted: 6 years ago.
Category: Dog Veterinary
Expert:  Dr. Andy replied 6 years ago.
Hello,
Lots to cover.
First, this sounds quite serious. Actually, I do have a specific concern. It is a autoimmune condition that is well known to cause problems with nails cracking and even peeling off the body. Can be quite painful. Examples are pemphigus and lupus.
Treatment often requires steroid therapy.

Now, about food allergies. I have never seen a food allergy cause this problem with the nails. Now, 50% of dogs with allergies, including food allergies, will lick the feet a lot, but not cause this problem with the nails.

Just in case, here is some info I thought you may like to have anyway about food allergies:

So, to rule-out food allergies you need to do a diet trial.
Summary: The primary protein in most dog foods is lamb, chicken, or beef. The primary carbohydrate is rice or corn. So, we need to change both. The most popular alternative diets are Venison and Potato, Duck and Potato, or Fish and Potato. It is available in prescription formulas (i.e. Science Diet D/D) or you can find some similar foods at the big pet stores like PetSmart or PetCo. Just make sure that when they say Venison is the "main ingredient" they don't sneak in other stuff like lamb meal or fish meal. Those would be poor choices. A non-prescription option would include Dick Van Patten's brand called Natural Balance. Keep in mind, holistic or all-natural foods are not necessarily any better when trying to remove a food allergy. Chicken is chicken, and rice is rice. When you perform a diet trial, you must stick with the food for 2-3 months to see if there is any benefit. NO OTHER treats or human food can be given during this time period. Remember, a grain-free diet is not necessarily any better. Over 75% of the time, it is the protein in the diet that is the problem.

Often, a biopsy of the nail and nail bed is really really needed to diagnose the condition so appropriate therapy can be started.

Good Luck
Dr. Andy

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Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Thank you, XXXXX XXXXX any other symptoms for the autoimmune condition? So far she has not changed her behavior at all, and her paws do not appear to be painful, we had them clipped just before they started to break, and she was totally fine for that, and like I said she runs around on them fine outdoors. I will take her to the vet just to be sure.

I think you may be right about the protein allergy, previously we only fed her chicken, turkey or beef, and about 3-4 months ago we switched to lamb, and then she started licking and chewing her paws a lot.

thank you again for your help.
Expert:  Dr. Andy replied 6 years ago.
You are welcome.
Often, no, there may not be any other symptoms.

It is just another thought, and may have nothing to do with autoimmune disease, but worth investigating.

Dr. Andy



I greatly appreciate when you click “ACCEPT” if you have found the advice helpful or informative, so I may receive credit for the answer. Receiving feedback and bonuses is happily welcomed.
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