Hyperkeratosis In Dogs: Does Your Dog Have Hairy Feet?

This content was reviewed by veterinarian Dr. Elizabeth Racine, DVM.

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Dog paw with Hyperkeratosis (Caption: Hyperkeratosis In Dogs)

Hyperkeratosis is also known as hairy dog feet. This is probably self-explanatory, but it’s called this because it looks like your dog is growing abnormal hairs on his skin. This can be a painful experience which is why it’s important to take your dog to the vet. There may be an underlying cause as to why your dog has hyperkeratosis.

What Is Canine Hyperkeratosis?

Dog paw with hyperkeratosis
Sally’s paw with hyperkeratosis

Canine hyperkeratosis is when the skin on your dog’s nose or paws thickens and hardens. Unfortunately, there is no cure, but there are things you can do to manage your dog’s hyperkeratosis.

This skin condition in dogs occurs when there is too much keratin. There are two types of hyperkeratosis: nasal hyperkeratosis in dogs (or dog nose hyperkeratosis) occurs on the nose area, and footpad hyperkeratosis occurs on the paws. Dogs with hyperkeratosis may have dried out, calloused-looking paws and noses. If the skin cracks, an infection may develop.

What Causes It?

Cartoon of veterinarian petting dog next to piggy bank (Caption: Start Saving Money On Vet Bills, Compare Pet Insurance Rates In Minutes; Button Text: Get My Quotes)

Unfortunately, hyperkeratosis is genetic in many cases. Specifically, Labradors, Golden Retrievers, Dogues de Bordeaux, Iris Terriers, and Bedlington Terriers commonly develop this skin condition.

Hyperkeratosis often occurs in the first year of a dog’s life after passing down through genes. Hyperkeratosis also commonly occurs in middle-aged and senior dogs. Skin conditions in dogs, like hyperkeratosis, can also be symptoms of other problems, including the following:

  • Canine Distemper – A vaccine is given to puppies for Canine Distemper, which is why this virus is rare.
  • Leishmaniasis – Caused by a parasite, which is often carried by sandflies. This illness can be controlled with medicine.
  • Pemphigus Foliaceus – This is a common autoimmune skin disease that is often diagnosed with a biopsy. It is treatable with immunosuppressive drugs.
  • Zinc Responsive Dermatosis – This is a skin disease that can occur if a dog is not absorbing zinc properly. It can be treated with zinc supplements.

Is Hyperkeratosis In Dogs Contagious?

No, hyperkeratosis is not contagious. It’s a genetic condition, but it can also be a symptom of an underlying problem listed above.

Hyperkeratosis Dog Paw Pad & Nose Treatment

Looking for hyperkeratosis treatment? Unfortunately, there is no known cure at this time. However, the skin condition can be managed by softening and removing the hardened skin on your dog’s paws and nose. Make an appointment with your vet to have this done if necessary.

My Dog Was Diagnosed With Hyperkeratosis

Natural Dog Company's Paw Soother

My husband noticed a change in our seven-year-old hound mix’s paw pads. All four of her paws had callouses on them, and one day we noticed she was limping. We took a look and saw that one of the callouses had cracked. Hyperkeratosis was the first thing that came to my mind.

We made a vet appointment immediately and confirmed Sally had hyperkeratosis. Our vet recommended a soothing paw balm to help hydrate Sally’s paw pads and prevent further cracking.

We purchased the Natural Dog Company’s Paw Soother, which improved Sally’s paws quickly. The callouses fell off, and her paw pads became much healthier. Now we maintain Sally’s paws by applying a paw balm twice a day.

Sally's dog paws next to WashBar paw balm

Another one of our favorites is WashBar’s Kanuka + Repair Paw Balm, which was sent to us in exchange for an unbiased review. The consistency of WashBar’s Paw Balm is much smoother and easier to apply than the Natural Dog Company’s. I’d compare it to how Chapstick goes on lips, whereas the Natural Dog Company’s is thicker and needs to melt into the paw more for it to be spread on evenly.

Sally likes to get up immediately after we apply her paw balm and with the Natural Dog Company’s Paw Soother there are often marks on our fabric couch from her paws. This doesn’t happen with WashBar’s Paw Balm.

How Can It Be Removed?

As we mentioned above, if your dog has hyperkeratosis, it’s important to keep the skin softened to keep your dog comfortable. If your dog is in pain from the hyperkeratotic paw pads, it may help have excess skin trimmed off. Make an appointment with your vet, and if you and your vet are comfortable, your vet can teach you how to trim your dog’s paws. Here is a video of how the process works.

Call Your Vet

If your dog has hyperkeratosis, you should take him to the vet. Since hyperkeratosis is a symptom of other illnesses, there is a chance that your dog is sick with something else, as well.

Should I Get Pet Insurance?

Are you worried about your dog’s overall health and the expenses that may come along with it? Pet insurance can help cover any unexpected vet costs. Keep in mind; however, that pet insurance doesn’t cover pre-existing conditions. Find out what pet insurance covers and if it’s worth it in our pet insurance 101 guide.

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