A dog licking his feet, a vet once told me, is the sign of an allergy. Treatment: antihistamines twice a day. Now, I don’t lick my feet—E-e-w-w-w!—but I, too, have allergies, primarily airborne stuff like dust, pollen, and animal dander. As a result, it is necessary that The Mutt and I each take our daily dose of Benadryl, his with a spoonful of peanut butter, mine with a glass of water.
The Mutt has developed perpetually orange-colored hair around his paws, a reaction to his saliva, it seems, and possibly another reason not to lick my feet: Cover me with feathers and I’d look like some mutant duck (which is still better than a blue-footed booby, I suppose).
Puppy dog nails
Anyway, one day I found an entire canine toenail on my bed and decided to check The Mutt’s feet; they resemble those of a Hobbit’s so it’s not readily evident what’s going on underneath all that hair. They looked rather long to me and I thought I might have to clip them myself; the groomer usually does this but maybe my dog just has fast-growing nails. One of them, though, really freaked me out: It was growing in the opposite direction from the others, curling upwards! Despite checking the Web for instructions on how to cut dog toenails, I thought better of the do-it-yourself approach and called the vet. The cost for this clip job would be $16.50 and the tech would show me how to do it. (Cutting the quick is a bloody business and painful for the dog. Who wants to alienate his best friend?)
Aural déja vu
In the examining room the vet tech was inspecting The Mutt’s feet when she exclaimed, “Your dog has weird toenails. I’ve never seen anything like this.” Right away I knew this did not bode well. (Cha-ching! $16.50 and counting.) The tech called for the head-honcho-tech who, upon examining my dog’s feet said, “Your dog has weird toenails. I’ve never seen anything like this.” (Seems I just heard that somewhere.) She said the vet needed to see this. (Cha-ching!) Looking at those thrice-examined toes the vet said—Wait for it.—”Your dog has weird toes. I’ve never seen anything like this.” (Are we in an echo chamber?) Then she said, “I want to take some pictures of your dog’s feet (Cha-ching!) to send to a dermatologist for an opinion.” (Cha-ching!) She said they’d call me when they had a diagnosis. Meanwhile, the two techs finished clipping The Mutt’s nails.
We were given one prescription for a pain reliever and another for a stronger antihistamine. (Cha-ching! Cha-ching!) By the time we checked out the bill was $111.50!
Diagnosis and treatment
A few days later the vet called to say The Mutt had Symmetrical Lupoid Onychodystrophy (SLO) which, loosely translated, means “Your dog has weird toenails.” SLO is “thought to be an autoimmune disease that targets the nails.” It results in separation of the nail from the quick which then grows independently under the nail instead of within it. It can be painful with flare-ups likely and although it’s incurable, it is treatable with two more medications (Cha-ching!) and fish oil! Two capsules, twice a day. And not just any fish oil. It has to be 1000 mg fish oil capsules containing 180 EPA (eicosapentanoic acid). None of the three brands I checked listed this EPA count. I asked the pharmacist; he couldn’t tell me. I called the vet’s office and read all three labels. I was put on hold three times while consultations took place. (That’s 17 minutes I’ll never get back.) It was suggested I buy all three and bring them in. But I was just there—and I’m almost home! I needed fish oil for myself anyway so I chose the “buy one, get one” brand. Turns out they were fine for The Mutt, too.
The “Fish Oil Frolics”
Have you ever tried giving fish oil to a dog? First, I punctured the capsules and drizzled the oil over his food. He wouldn’t eat for three days. (The Hairball was interested, though.) Next, I froze them but he wasn’t fooled. Finally, I resorted to my gun (pill gun, that is–a plastic tube through which you push the meds, or fish oil capsules, into your pet’s throat with a plunger). The hard part is catching the patient. After a few days I was able to establish myself as the Alpha member of the family. Now he simply lies down and waits for the inevitable. Not that that’s entirely successful, though. Occasionally he runs off and barfs at least one of them up in a pool of dog spittle from which I have to retrieve it and then recycle back into the little darling. Yech! Why is dog spit so slimy? One night—Whoops!—I stepped on a patch of oil flowing from a scrunched capsule and slid several inches across the kitchen floor. “Not good, you twit!” I growled at The Mutt. I count it as success of a sort, at least until I realize that in another 12 hours we get to repeat the entire fiasco.
Once the toenail thing is under control it’s the teeth cleaning (Cha-ching!) Minimum charge: $357.00, barring any complications. I swear, my next dog is going to be a Gund!*
©2013, The Wit’s End Scribbler
*Manufacturer of stuffed toy animals.