Recently, a very anxious five-year-old male German Shepherd presented for his first-ever appointment at our hospital. Strangely, he was scheduled for a nail trim. I am not exactly sure how he got onto our schedule of appointments for the day, but all I knew is that I had a very nervous dog in front of me who wanted to be anywhere else in the world but the exam room. It did not appear that his nails were long by any means. Apart from some dental tartar and a moderate amount of interdigital erythema, he looked normal on exam. I certainly would not want to subject a patient to an unnecessary procedure, in particular one that would inevitably cause a lot of anxiety if I did not have to do so. I thought that it was quite strange that the owners brought him in with this one request so I made sure to call them to further clarify why exactly they brought him in. It turns out that he had been frequently licking his paws over the past few weeks. They thought that his nails were too long, and that was most likely the reason that he had been licking.
History-taking is such a vital part of the process of diagnosing and treating patients. I am grateful to have been able to talk to the owners about pododermatitis and topical and systemic medication to help manage him, which was, in my opinion, far more likely to yield results and decrease his incessant licking than a nail trim was. Time will tell if the German Shepherd patient follows up for further assessment, but I’m hoping that he has improved!