Broken Toenails, Ear Problems

I am always having trouble with my German shorthair Mocha breaking her toenails. I keep them short and I use my Dremel tool to keep them smooth. But at least once a year she breaks one in half all the way into her pad. After countless vet bills for removing the entire nail, I still don't know why this is happening. Her nails are solid dark color.

She just did it again yesterday when digging. I brought her in and washed it all out, then soaked it with Epsom salt. Then I cut it down as far as I could. I wrapped it with fishing line to keep it together, and then superglued it. Now she's back to normal.

I wonder if there is something else I can do to stop this. It usually happens in the winter but not always. I plan on getting a pair of boots for her for the winter but I have five shorthairs and she's the only one with this problem. --BC

Nail problems are significant in most hunting dogs. I have observed that two things factor into broken and damaged nails. As dogs grow older they seem to grow longer nails that do not wear off readily. I'm not sure the reason for this is but it probably goes along with the tendency of older people to have hair in places they never dreamed possible.

In dogs the quick actually grows longer with age and the nail shell follows along. This anatomical change also makes the nails longer and more susceptible to the traumas of hunting, digging and scratching. The solution to this is keeping the nails short.

I know you are trying to do this by grinding with a Dremel tool and I like that, but to really get the nails short enough to reduce the problem you need to grind the nails down to about ½-inch in length. This is commonly referred to as "quicking" and is not easily done without anesthesia for pain relief.

Another factor is that some dogs are just diggers and can't seem to tolerate any unturned earth. I have a dog in this category and it becomes very frustrating.

One medical thing that I have pursued is the use of Biotin as a supplement. This is a treatment that is based on the fact that Biotin is a vitamin involved in skin health and may aid in developing a healthier nail bed. With that in mind, you might include a Biotin/Zinc supplement in your treatment plan.

I have not had good results trying to sew or glue nails back in place. It seems like they always look good for a while and then get pus-filled and fall apart.

I have a three-year-old female Deutsch Drahthaar. This summer she developed ear problems that have continued into the fall. She has made multiple trips to the vet. She is given Mometamax; her ears clear up but in a few weeks the problem is back.

Her ears develop a dark brown, almost black substance and there is fluid in them. The left ear seems to be the worst. I clean her ears daily with VET solution but it doesn't seem to help. I changed her diet about six weeks ago, and a week ago I began using what is referred to as "purple stuff," a mixture of alcohol, gentian violet and boric acid powder.

This seems to clear up the brown substance but there is still fluid.

Is there something I'm missing or should I look for a specialist? I'm not that far from the University of Pennsylvania Vet Hospital. --ES

If you are still observing fluid in your dog's ears after treatment it is probably due to inadequate drying of the ear canals. I like to use cotton formed into a cone and then inserted into the vertical ear canal. This is followed by vigorous massage that helps the cotton wick out the liquid remaining in the ear.

One of the principles of good ear health management is periodic cleaning and drying.

This is especially important in dogs that swim a lot. I would also recommend a good workup of this dog's ear problems and it should include ear cultures, stained slides of ear exudates, and evaluation of the dog's allergy status.

Feeding trials are part of this evaluation and must be done with strict guidelines. Most of these things can be performed by your regular veterinarian but if you are more comfortable going to the University of Pennsylvania I'm sure they will do a good job evaluating your dog.

We have a question regarding our black Lab. He's had folliculitis and staph for a year now. We have tried several antibiotics like dicloxacillin, augmentin, ciproflaxacin, cyclosporin, etc., without any luck. His clinical findings are severe furnunculosis of the digits as well as boggy lesions.

He is now on convenia vaccination and doing okay. He cannot hunt anymore due to the fact that his pads are getting red and sore and he comes home with open wounds. These are mild conditions regarding hunting. It's only for an hour or two.

He is currently being seen by a vet who specializes in dermatology and his own vet. He's nine years old and in excellent shape apart from the above mentioned condition. Do you have any additional recommendations? --MVK

I have seen several cases of staph dermatitis and solutions seem to become more difficult as the duration of the disease increases and the extent of the body surface affected increases. Folliculitis with staph bacterial component can range from a simple interdigital cyst caused by an imbedded weed awn to a case of puppy strangles to extensive superficial pustules affecting the feet especially, but also over the top line and in the ears.

Over time we have changed our therapy for puppy strangles as research has found that this condition is caused by underlying immune system problems and dosing with Prednisalone is indicated along with antibiotics. Certainly in management of a case such as your dog's it is good medicine to culture the staph from lesions and then run sensitivity to determine appropriate antibiotics.

This should be followed with periodic reculturing as the sensitivity can change with prolonged antibiotic therapy. I would also suggest treatment with Pred to see if this reduces the inflammatory response of the skin and some medicated baths to help reduce staph contamination of the skin.

I hope you'll be able to help with my six-year-old Jack Russell terrier. I do several types of hunting with him, rabbit, grouse, and pheasant. From the day I got him he was incredibly athletic. He could run non-stop for hours and was tireless. He was so muscular that he looked like he was on steroids. When he was about three, he started shedding non-stop and after about five trips to the vet he was diagnosed with a food allergy.

They put him on Science Diet D/D dog food (he had previousl

y been eating Science Diet Adult). The shedding didn't appear to be much better, but he did have fewer occurrences of skin rashes. Later I switched to another food. But ever since we switched foods the first time, he hasn't had the same muscle tone or stamina.

He's still in good shape and not fat at all, but not nearly as muscular as he used to be. His endurance is probably half what it used to be and he's very lackluster around the house.

I'm wondering if the food I'm giving him is not providing him enough nutrients and calories to support his activities. I free-feed and have never had any issues with him overeating. I would have thought that if he needed more calories, he would eat more.

If you think that's the problem, could you suggest a high-energy food that would be unlikely to cause food allergies? I know these questions are kind of vague, but at this time it's my last hope. My current vet has no clue and doesn't see anything wrong with his body composition. Then again, my vet isn't used to working dogs. I should also point out that he was diagnosed with Lyme disease earlier this year, but tested negative after a run of antibiotics. --TO

I think you should view this dog as having two things to consider in managing his case. The first is the post Lyme disease treatment status of the dog's body. This should be monitored by various blood and urine tests to see if the dog is in fact completely recovered from the disease and back to being able to function as you expect him to. This monitoring should include a physical exam, CBC, chemistry panel and urinalysis every six months.

The second issue is the skin rash and shedding. I would say that the allergy diets are typically low in protein and often do not provide enough nutrients for an active hunting dog or a growing puppy. With this in mind I would recommend that you go back to a good quality adult dog food such as the Science Diet Adult you were feeding initially.

Puppy Update
I continue to enjoy my new German shorthair pup. She has given me the opportunity to work on a set of training problems I've not had to deal with. She has matured very slowly but according to a client of mine who has dogs of a similar breeding, this is no surprise.

I've taught her to sit just as a challenge to the old heads who say, "Never teach a pointing dog to sit." My friend Harold and I introduced her to birds and even shot a blank pistol over her with no reaction on her part. She loves the cover and she loves to run!

I remain at for your questions or comments.

More Health & Nutrition

Health & Nutrition

10 Best Dog Nutrition Products for 2016

Tony J. Peterson - August 02, 2016

Anyone who has spent a single day behind a well-trained gun dog knows how hard they work. Our

Health & Nutrition

Best food supplements for your gun dog

Tony J. Peterson - July 05, 2017

Getting the most out of training and hunting with your gun dog starts with choosing the right

Health & Nutrition

Q&A: Ear Infections and Irritations in Game Dogs

John Holcomb, DVM - September 02, 2016

Question: My five-year-old female black Lab has major ear problems for a large part of the...

See More Health & Nutrition

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction


Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services


GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.