Ozark - the Australian Wildlife Carer's Information & Communications Network

Wed - Sep 06


These photos show a Male adult Brushtail Possum with a disease of the nail bed. The paws cannot grasp, the skin under the tail is very dry and scaly.

The vet felt that it could be symmetrical lupoid onchodystrophy (SLO) a fairly common autoimmune disease in some species of dogs; it causes loss of the toenails.

Treatment of these diseases can be frustrating and is often misdiagnosed as fungal or bacterial-unfortunately, the only way to definitively diagnose pemphigus/SLO is by amputating the end toe bone, including the nail as a pathologist can make the diagnosis only by observing the skin/nail junction.

The possum was very underweight and could not groom it self so the fur was matted and smelt of urine.

I have seen a very similar problem with possums that have burnt paws and the nails have fallen out and regrown. If it is first degree burns the nails grown back OK but on severe burns the nails do not grow back normal and often there is nerve damage and the possum cannot grasp with its paws.

Sonya Stanvic

Note :??On vet advice, this possum was euthanased and pathology was performed on tissue samples.

Vet Diagnosis


Vesicopustular dermatitis of the nail bed and skin due to PEMPHIGUS FOLIACEOUS. ??This is an auto-immune disease usually found in dogs. I have not yet found out how it is triggered and I have yet to speak with anyone who has seen this in possums.


The gross and histological changes are indicative of pemphigus foliaceus an autoimmune disease where antibodies are formed against vasculitis which may be secondary.

The histopathology part of the report states that no bacteria can be seen. No fungi were evident in PAS stained sections.

Merrilee Verhoven


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