Hereditary Sensory Neuropathy

If your dog suddenly started licking and biting his toes and footpads of one or several feet and you noticed footpad ulceration, swollen digits, and mutilated claws, your dog may be affected by a hereditary disease called hereditary sensory neuropathy, or acral mutilation syndrome. This is a relatively new disease in which dogs have impaired perception of pain in the feet and lower limbs from a young age. It can cause severe self-mutilation of footpads and toes. The disease occurs in the German Shorthaired Pointer, English Pointer, English Springer Spaniel and usually affects young dogs.

Affected dogs usually walk and run on their mutilated feet without any evidence of lameness, pain or incoordination, and they allow wound care without evidence of pain or discomfort. Dogs are otherwise healthy, with the exception of frequent secondary bacterial infections of the wounded feet. This disorder is clinically very difficult to manage, and the majority of the dogs were euthanized within days to months of diagnosis. The signs of the disease mentioned above may also occur in other disorders and the definitive diagnosis can only be made by a veterinarian.