Hyperkeratosis In Dogs: Does Your Dog Have Hairy Feet?

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Dog paw with Hyperkeratosis
Photo Credit: BullMarketFrogs.com

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?

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 prevent your dog from getting hyperkeratosis. This skin condition in dogs occurs when there is too much keratin. There are two types of hyperkeratosis: nasal hyperkeratosis in dogs occurs on the nose area and foot pad hyperkeratosis occurs on the paws. Dogs with hyperkeratosis may have dried out, callous looking paws and noses. If the skin cracks, an infection may develop.

What’s Causes It?

Unfortunately, hyperkeratosis is passed down through genes. 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 it’s passed down through genes. Skin conditions in dogs, like hyperkeratosis, can 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.

How Do You Treat Hyperkeratosis?

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

How Can It Be Removed?

As we mentioned above, if your dog has hyperkeratosis, it’s important to keep it controlled and have the 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.

Has your dog ever had hyperkeratosis?

About The Author:

Kimberly received her Bachelor of Arts in multimedia journalism from Simpson College. She has been writing about dogs since 2014, covering subjects such as dog insurance, training, health, accessories, and more. Her work has appeared in many notable brands, including The New York Times' Wirecutter, Reader's Digest, Forbes, People, Woman's World, and Huffington Post.

Kimberly's natural curiosity helps her research as she seeks the truth when learning about, comparing, and personally testing canine products and services. With every piece she writes, her goal is to help our readers find the best fit for their unique needs. Kimberly grew up in a family that loved Labrador Retrievers and remembers running and playing in the yard with them as a child.

In 2017, she and her husband adopted their Coonhound mix, Sally, from a local shelter. Kimberly’s research was put to good use since Sally faced some aggression issues with other dogs and needed some training to be an inside dog. She worked daily with Sally and sought help from professionals to help Sally become the happy pup she is today. One of Kimberly’s favorite pastimes is spoiling Sally with new toys, comfy beds, and yummy treats (she even makes homemade goodies for her). She tries to purchase the safest products for Sally and knows that each canine has their own specific likes and dislikes. Kimberly is passionate about dogs and knows the bond between humans and canines is like no other.

Disclaimer: The information provided through this website should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or a disease. It is not a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you may have a health problem, you should consult your health care provider.

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August 6, 2020 2:18 pm

I read somewhere that it is caused by a zinc deficiency. So I had just a few drops of zinc to my chow’s water and it helps tremendously.

Debra Smith
June 19, 2020 7:59 pm

My Dogue de Bordeaux has this…

Debra Smith
June 19, 2020 7:58 pm

I just want to cry, I love my Dogue de Bordeaux And I just discovered this on her paws. I called vet and am waiting for a return call

May 27, 2020 9:59 am

After reading your article and watching your video I went ahead and started trimming, after the first cut one of the “hairs” started bleeding. It didn’t seem to hurt but obviously I stopped right away. Is there anything to do now? Thank you!

Apiffany Gaither Billings
June 15, 2020 2:27 pm
Reply to  Catalina

I’m so sorry your dog is dealing with these symptoms, and I’m terribly sorry for the delay in response to your comment. We were experiencing an issue with our comments and some went straight to the trash folder, but we are actively working on approving and replying to comments like yours. How is your dog doing today?

Dolores Hill
May 23, 2020 10:35 am

We have a hound/pitbull mix who is about 85-90 lbs. He has terrible allergies and is on Apoquel 1x a day and 2x a day if flare-ups occur. He is on Royal Canine prescription food. He had a strange skin break out on his side, bumps then loss of hair. He fell in our pool while we were unloading groceries was in there maybe 5-7 mins struggling to get out. We got him out he started coughing/gagging and that’s when I noticed his back foot having the hairy look. I thought it was from being in the water but now I think he has this. We did take him to the vet. Dr wanted to listen to his lungs and heart because he did the coughing/ gagging thing occasionally after the fall into the pool. Dr said his lungs and heart sounded clear. We think he may need an x-ray to confirm. He did it a few times this morning.

July 22, 2020 2:11 am
Reply to  Dolores Hill

Get your dog off Apoquel. It causes cancer. Read the research.

February 20, 2020 4:04 pm

My mini Australian shepherd has just been diagnosed with hyperkeratosis. We caught it early. I feel horrible for him. He has had such trouble with allergies and his paws since moving to Arizona. Thankfully it isnt bad enough where the hairs need to be trimmed. It’s just starting.

November 23, 2019 8:59 pm

My African serval has hyperkeratosis on her paws and she won’t let me touch them and she lumps and not active because of it . I’ve taken her to vet twice to removed and sand down her paws but now she is 5Yrs old and hates vets and needs to be sedated every time and don’t do well coming out of sedation so now it’s not an option any other options???? Help please

D. Ginn
November 12, 2019 9:18 am

I too took my big yellow lab to the vet because his pads are fairly bad, they fringe out of the sides of his feet so they are noticeable. In the beginning I asked about his feet before they got to this point, a vet not my regular vet said oh it’s just the way he stands on his feet, he never looked at them because I casually asked Why they poked out some while in waiting room. Now it’s a different story, and I started researching and found all this, took him in expecting them to soak and cut it away but my vet said he does nothing of the sort unless they are cracking, bleeding or causing distress and my dog does not seem effected by it so he too recommended epsom salt soak sometimes and to keep petroleum jelly on them. I have decided to try the ingredients in this article and I had thought about olive oil on my own, I may add that fish oil that was mentioned in comments to the diet as well. I’m also going to try an experiment, if it works I’ll be back to post

February 26, 2020 10:41 pm
Reply to  D. Ginn

Shea butter, beeswax and cbd oil works really good. And if they lick it it wont hurt them.

April 2, 2020 1:27 pm
Reply to  Jody

CBD Oil orally or topically?

Lisa Michelle
August 11, 2019 12:40 pm

My King Charles Cavalier has this. My Vet told me to give him fish oil twice a day and his paw pads seem to be much better. His nose I use vitamin e oil no change but hasn’t gotten any worse.

July 24, 2020 1:57 pm
Reply to  Lisa Michelle

How do you give it to him? The fish oil pills?

October 13, 2019 5:06 pm
Reply to  Lisa Michelle

How much fish oil? I have a saint Bernard. 89lbs

Lucy Healing
May 24, 2019 11:24 am

Yes my cocker spaniel has it vv badly. His are horn like growths on his feet and my vet has to cut them with goat foot shears twice monthly.
It is truly horrendous and v painful for him.
Does anyone have any ideas.
Would be hugely grateful

May 13, 2020 12:58 pm
Reply to  Lucy Healing

My cocker spaniel has a severe case of it too. I’ve used smooth soother which is very good for softening the pads before trimming. I put it on before she goes to bed with a saran wrap and socks on top.

Roy Dudley
February 11, 2020 3:37 pm
Reply to  Lucy Healing

Vaccination can often give your dog chronic symptoms of the virus you’re vaccinating for. I think a clear example is the Distemper vaccine. In the last week, somebody has posted about really terrible teeth and another about hyperkeratosis of the nose. Both can be the result of the distemper vaccine.

This is taken from Merck Veterinary Manual: Dogs surviving the acute phase may have hyperkeratosis of the footpads and epithelium of the nasal planum, as well as enamel hypoplasia in incompletely erupted teeth.

April 15, 2019 4:58 am

Hi everyone, my vet recommended using Vaseline/ petroleum jelly. It locks in moisture to keep the pads/nose from drying out. then you can use a cheep children’s soft bristled toothbrush to gently easy away the overgrowth with warm water. No need for expensive anything or wondering if it’s safe for them to ingest or hurting them by clipping them. I’ve been doing it this way because it’s safer, more affordable and my poor dog has it on all paws on nose. I can’t bear to put him through harsher. Of course any dog who needs filing because of extreme growth I’d recommend a pumice block, paws only.

Roy Dudley
February 11, 2020 3:36 pm
Reply to  Barksby

Vaccination can often give your dog chronic symptoms of the virus you’re vaccinating for. I think a clear example is the Distemper vaccine. In the last week, somebody has posted about really terrible teeth and another about hyperkeratosis of the nose. Both can be the result of the distemper vaccine.

This is taken from Merck Veterinary Manual: Dogs surviving the acute phase may have hyperkeratosis of the footpads and epithelium of the nasal planum, as well as enamel hypoplasia in incompletely erupted teeth.

April 18, 2019 9:17 pm
Reply to  Barksby

Thanks for your post.
I noticed my girl Kimba had it on her paws.
Then this week she started limping with her right paw.
She’s old and has many other issues. So, I used the vasoline and trimmed the paw and no more limp.
I will continue with the petroleum jelly daily.

Judy Cruse
March 24, 2019 7:00 pm

My Ella has been EXTREMELY touchie about her feet since we got her 10 years ago. She is part Golden Retriever so she has the long thick hair anyway. I can pull the long hair up from between her toes and sometimes it can be 2 – 2 1/2 ” long! Her pads get dry and crack, with the hair like stuff in the video. I tried the salve before but didn’t have much luck wih that. Guess I will try the warm water soak and the salve once more.

March 10, 2019 6:48 pm

My dog may have this. On her paw pads with one in particular it is like there is fur on them or there is this weird stuff like the bristles on a fuzzy brush. She seems okay with it but licks at her paws excessively on rare occasions…

Fiona Cash
November 23, 2018 12:43 pm

my poor cavalier king Charles has this condition on his nose – it is gradually getting worse. had very little constructive help from the vet – is there anything else I can do?

Ruth hannah
June 23, 2019 6:27 am
Reply to  Fiona Cash

My dog is 8 years old a Jack Russell. He has this condition on his nose but even if I try to just look at his nose he gets very frightened and aggressive.
How can I apply any treatment if he won’t let me near.
He isn’t an aggressive dog normally, he is very sensitive.
Any help Pls?

Deivyd R.
October 9, 2019 12:43 am
Reply to  Ruth hannah

I have this same problem with a male pitbull. He’s 15 years old and only lashes out when he’s in pain but I don’t know how to treat him because he bites hard. I’m afraid of putting him under due to his age.

October 2, 2019 10:17 am
Reply to  Ruth hannah

I agree with Deb, use something for anxiety, and also do conditioning training. This takes time, but basically you are working to build a positive association with touching/handling his nose. I find using a Clicker and treats to be an excellent way to slowly build the trust/association with this. It takes a bit of time and patience but is 100% worth it when you start getting the positive results. Kikopup is a YouTube channel that has really great tutorials for clicker training and how to do it. I recommend her channel to anyone who can’t afford to hire a trainer.

July 26, 2019 12:33 am
Reply to  Ruth hannah

Get your dog some calming pills and give the max dose. It sux but so does anxiety and pain…m

April 24, 2019 10:30 pm
Reply to  Fiona Cash

My Cavy has it on both front feet and is painful for her. Took her to the vet and she said she couldn’t help. At least now I know what I am up against.

December 8, 2018 9:13 am
Reply to  Fiona Cash

Hello Fiona hope you and your dog are doing well, and it’s condition is better, my dog had them on her paws so i researched and i found “organic snout soother” you can google it actually it’s for nose but i ordered on line and putting them on her feet, and not even regularly and it’s already much better, you can try it all ingredients are natural and are even mentioned when you check on them… wish you and your pup all well

October 6, 2018 1:59 pm

Hi I have a 5 yr old English Bully Rescue that came down with this over a year ago. I had tried a new food. So I thought this was causing it. It almost completely went away. Then about 6 weeks ago it came back. Now it’s worse. I was using a CBD cream on her pads. I’ll try what is suggested. She isn’t getting as much walk time because of my walking issues. Now that it is filling off I’ll be walking her more. It’s not bothering her so far. If I pinch lightly on the area she doesn’t flinch. So I’m thinking it doesn’t hurt. I will put the balm back on. And my husband and I will try to trim her tomorrow. I’ll get some sharp sissors. And try after a good soak in coconut oil and water. I did start giving her some zinc supplements. I’m not sure if it could be an underlying disease since it came and left. Unless it is a parasite. Our vets here in California are so expensive. But I do want to make sure it’s not anything serious. Thanks again for the info. I was always afraid to trim it. Since I thought it would hurt her. I’ll let you know. She doesn’t have any other skin issues. Thank goodness. I’m assuming she came from a bad genetic line. One of the reasons I wanted to rescue her. She has a bad underbite and her tail is almost non existent. She did have to have a cherry eye surgery. Thanks again. Geri.

June 18, 2018 2:41 pm

My Chinese Crested mom & son have this.I wish they’d find something other than trimming to help.

Stan Weimer
June 17, 2018 9:27 am

Well, I see after reading the replies from all of you out there in dog land, & without a cure for Hyperkeratosis,(how convenient)… man’s best friend is to suffer to a no cure to Hyperkeratosis until the Veterinarian industry once again get’s its pound of flesh from us all, We can send a man to the moon & back… but we can’t seem to invent a non leaky coffee pot while pouring a cup of Java, or a cure for Hyperkeratosis. My Blue Healer/Border Collie has this dam Hyperkeratosis as well, & upon reading the diagnosis of the prognosis from everyone; It looks like we’re all up the same proverbial creek without a paddle when staring at high vet bills & an empty wallet (from a no cure) from this stuff. Ya know… what did people do a 100 yrs. ago when their ranch dogs got sick from this stuff? Welllllll; back then they didn’t get sick, because greedy dog breeders hadn’t entered on the scene yet to mess with their gene’s, & auto immune systems. money,money,money. My Vet drives a Corvette.

May 9, 2020 7:19 pm
Reply to  Stan Weimer

Wow, ranting about the evil vets (most of whom leave vet school with massive debt and so often take care of animals for reduced fees). Did you know that vets have the single highest rate of stress and suicide of any profession – probably because they are always dealing with abusive and/or whiny owners and see the darkest side of people? So typical that people like you wax eloquent about the good old days, pre-vet — when dogs, on average, lived about 5 years. Health problems or overpopulation that interfered with the dogs’ jobs and the owners’ demands? Shoot the dogs dead. So, yeah, autoimmune diseases and age-related problems didn’t materialize. The good old days… smh. Equally typical that you would promote a ridiculously expensive coconut oil-based ointment. Get some coconut oil, some shea butter, jojoba oil, or, heck, even vaseline, instead of this insanely overpriced mixture.

Seriously, why do people come to veterinary sites and take advantage of the scientific info just to bash the vets and scientists who deliver it? Go find some useful activities if you are bored.

December 8, 2018 9:25 am
Reply to  Stan Weimer

Hello Stan! You’re right, and i just wrote to Fiona above of a product “organic snout soother” you can find it online it helped my dogs paws! Hope this helps as well

Wendy Mosier
December 1, 2019 11:16 pm
Reply to  Deer

The snout soother works!!! I used it on my 8 mo th old English bulldog and after a few days it was gone!!! I might try it on his paws too!!


April 17, 2018 7:58 am

I have a 7 year old Dingo who broke his leg two years ago. Since then he never really walks on it fully more like tippy toe. I just noticed that he has a hairy paw and was thinking the cause maybe not putting his full weight on it? I will be taking him to the vet ASAP but dreading it as he is not very cooperative and will have to be sedated.

September 17, 2018 2:55 am
Reply to  Susan

I have the same issue! My 8 year old dog joined our family with a broken pelvis, and he never healed properly. I’ve never seen him put pressure on that paw. I noticed tonight he has a hairy paw on that leg.

July 12, 2017 2:39 pm

I use an amope callous remover on my Shetland Sheepdog’s feet. Because she’s so calm, it’s an easy way to control the issue.

April 19, 2017 11:14 pm

My dog gets it on her nose. I simply use coconut oil and it seems to calm it down and the flakes subside.

March 5, 2017 6:30 pm

Can this happen in older dogs? My pup is almost 10years old and his paws just got like this.

March 30, 2017 9:14 pm
Reply to  Misty

My dog got this about age of 9. He is now followed by a dog dermatologist. She sees him every 3 or 4 months. He is sedated and the hard areas on his paw pads are trimmed. I think she uses a Dremel tool. She also trims his nails since he hates it, might as well while he is knocked out. Every day I put cream on his paw pads, sometimes twice. I use several different ones. I use bag balm, but it is so sticky I then cover his feet with kids socks and use scrunchies to keep them on till it absorbs. I also use Dermoscent bio balm, this was recommended by the derm vet, not as greasy and works well. Kerasol intensive foot repair I use, got it online from Target ( it is for people). The best thing is warm foot soaks with food grade propylene glycol. I put about 1/2 inch of warm water in the tub then add about 1 or 2 cups of the propylene glycol. It is supposed to be 1/2 water, 1/2 glycol, but I just eyeball it. I make him stand there for about 5-7 minutes. This really softens the hard areas. Doing all this really keeps the keratosis at bay for the most part. He still needs the trim but it doesn’t get as bad as the first time and he is able to walk. Hope this helps, I gleaned all this info from reading stuff on the Internet and the vet agreed with it.

March 5, 2018 11:21 am
Reply to  Claudia

Does anyone know if there is any research or any trials going on or in the works to find a cure for this disease? Our Airedale has had this condition since birth (though we had no idea what it was, but the breeder did and kept breeding dogs with it) and it’s horrible for her! We can only do so much and it’s getting to the point she’s in alot of pain. We take her to the derm for pad trims and dremel every couple of months and she loathes it! It’s breaking my heart. We do all the home treatments listed above but it just seems so terrible for dog and the family. There must be something more that can be done!

April 18, 2018 12:04 pm
Reply to  Beth

i am putting dermoscent bio balm on my english pointer 3 feet to soften then i trim she is walking good now it takes time i also put a product from brown dog (online) on her which also works great i trim my dogs pads with a fine nail scissor hang in there

February 18, 2018 7:30 pm
Reply to  Claudia

Hi, does this make a dog limp

August 26, 2016 11:14 pm

There are more areas affected. My dog has it on her backside and tail. I would think anywhere they have skin, which is everywhere, it could be an issue.

January 21, 2020 8:16 pm
Reply to  Stephanie

My chocolate Labrador has a very severe case of this disease. I’ve taken him to several vets and I’ve spent thousands! I’m in debt now because of this stupid disease. Anyway, my dog gets it badly on all 4 paws and his nails just die and fall off! He gets it on his tail, spots all over his body, his mouth, ears, and elbows. My vet has him on a maintenance dose of steroids now. I bath and soak him once a week. When it gets bad he cracks and he bleeds, he won’t get out of bed and he will pee in the bed. I put socks on him with every moisturizer and hydrocortisone on the market. It softens and falls off and he heals just for it to return. It’s not fun at all! We need a cure or better/more effective treatment options. Good luck to all of you and prayers for the fur babies

Amy Solomon
April 19, 2020 10:56 pm
Reply to  Ranae

My rescue dog walker coonhound has it really bad. Have tried every medication without much improvement or hope. Her paws are bloody and swollen and nails overgrown and thick crusty pads. So awful. Every time they trim her nails her paws get more swollen the next day. She is a biter and requires sedation making it very difficult for me to treat myself. I will try the Vaseline next. She is on steroids with minimal improvement.

Kimberly Alt
August 29, 2016 8:05 am
Reply to  Stephanie

Oh no, I’m so sorry Stephanie. I suggest making an appointment with your dog’s vet to have the hardened areas removed.