You've noticed your dog’s nose to be excessively hard or crusty, or maybe the dog’s paw pads seem unusually sensitive or have a hard crust on them. These are the typical symptoms of hyperkeratosis in dogs.
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Hyperkeratosis can have several causes. Some dog breeds like Retrievers and Terriers are prone to this condition genetically. Other causes can be a medical illnesses like Canine Distemper, a viral infection, or Leishmaniasis, a parasitic infection.
Dog hyperkeratosis can be uncomfortable for your pet, but it is not life threatening. Unfortunately, there is no cure for hyperkeratosis in dogs and the best you can do for your pooch is to manage the condition and make your dog comfortable. As part of overall dog paw care routine, you can also somewhat prevent this condition.
What is Hyperkeratosis in Dogs?
Your dog’s body naturally makes keratin. Keratin is a protein that makes up the outer coating of the skin. It’s very hard and fibrous. Hyperkeratosis is a condition where your dog’s body makes too much keratin.
That keratin continues to grow and forms a hard crusty shell on your dog’s nose and/or paw pads. When your dog has that hard, dry, crusty shell over the nose, they cannot use their nose the way they are supposed to. And those hard crusty shells on their paws can make their feet extremely sensitive, too.
While incurable, hyperkeratosis in dogs needs to be managed. If left untreated, the dog might find it painful to walk and the dog's poor nose function will affect their daily life.
Managing Hyperkeratosis in Dogs
Since there is no cure for canine hyperkeratosis, it’s important that you take steps to manage it and keep your dog comfortable as soon as you spot the first symptoms. With a few simple treatments and lifestyle changes, having hyperkeratosis doesn’t have to become a big problem for your dog or impact your dog’s life too much.
First, you'll have to see your veterinarian. That hard crusty shell can lead to skin infections and other problems that need to be treated with antibiotics and/or topical creams as recommended by your vet. When it comes to home treatments for hyperkeratosis, there are some things you can do to manage hyperkeratosis in dogs and keep your pooch comfortable.
6 Ways to Manage Hyperkeratosis in Dogs
1. Get That Shell Removed
Because the keratin will just keep growing and growing over your dog's paws or nose, you can periodically have it removed by a vet. While the video shows how to do it, note that this should only be done by a veterinarian to prevent hurting your dog or causing a skin infection.
Your vet can carefully trim away the excess keratin on a dog's nose or paws, and make your dog a lot more comfortable. If you have this done every few months, the symptoms of hyperkeratosis may not impact your dog’s life much at all.
2. Use Skin Creams
Over the counter paw/nose balms or creams developed specifically for dogs with hyperkeratosis will help loosen up the shell and keep your dog’s nose and paws moist so that your pup can still smell like they should be able to do. Some salves can help slow down the growth of the keratin, although they can’t totally cure dog hyperkeratosis.
3. Use Booties and/or Socks
Because your dog’s feet may be sensitive, good footwear can help your dog be more comfortable. So when taking your dog out, make sure their feet are protected so that they won’t come into contact with ice, cold snow, chemicals or hot pavement. While these are dangers to a dog's paws onto themselves, hyperkeratosis makes them even more hazardous.
Dogs with hyperkeratosis can burn their paw pads quicker, or experience other paw pad injuries in heat or extreme cold. Using dog shoes or socks with grips on the soles for your dog to wear outdoors or even around the house if you have cold floors like wood or tile floors will help.
4. Keep Dog's Nails Trimmed
When a dog has hyperkeratosis, it can be tough for pet owners to trim their nails without causing pain or injury. But, trimming your dog’s nails regularly will keep your dog more comfortable. If you're unsure about doing it yourself, then take the dog to a groomer or have your vet trim the dog's nails on a regular basis to make it easier for your pup to walk without pain.
5. Let Your Dog Ride
If your dog likes to go for long walks outside but the hyperkeratosis condition has progressed so far that it makes your pet's feet hurt after a very short time, one option you have is a pet stroller. It might seem silly to some dog owners but a dog stroller will give your dog the fun of a walk or a run without hurting their feet.
This doesn't mean that your dog never walks again but rather it's a solution for longer walks outdoors. Bring the stroller, let Fido walk or run with you until you notice that the dog is slowing down, limping or acting like they're in pain, then get your pup into a stroller.
6. Give Your Dog a Sauna Experience
To keep the dog's skin under the keratin soft and moist, and to soften the ridges of keratin on your dog’s nose and paw pads, you can give your pooch some steam.
You cannot bring a dog into an actual sauna but you can run the shower with the hot water on full blast until the bathroom is hot and steamy. Don’t turn on the exhaust fan. Then sit in the steamy bathroom with your pet and let that hot steam soften up the skin and the keratin. Your dog will breathe better and be a lot more comfortable afterwards.
Hyperkeratosis in dogs doesn’t mean your pet's life has to be miserable. If you make sure that you take the dog to the vet often to remove those crusts, and use some of these tricks above to make your dog more comfortable on a daily basis, your pup can still have a great life even with hyperkeratosis.