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.
Table of Contents
- What is Hyperkeratosis in Dogs?
- Managing Hyperkeratosis in Dogs
- 6 Ways to Manage Hyperkeratosis in Dogs
- Bonus: Tips to Prevent Dog Paw Keratosis or Reduce the Severity
- Understanding the Causes of Hyperkeratosis
- How Vets Diagnose Dog Hyperkeratosis
- Common Questions about Paw Pad Hyperkeratosis
Hyperkeratosis can have several causes. Some dog breeds like Retrievers and Terriers are prone to this condition genetically.
Other causes can be 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 the 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 tough 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, you must 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 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 a veterinarian should only 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 keratin growth, 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.
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 regularly 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 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 long 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 afterward.
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 daily, your pup can still have a great life even with hyperkeratosis.
Bonus: Tips to Prevent Dog Paw Keratosis or Reduce the Severity
One of the most important things you can do for your dog's overall health is to take him for annual checkups. This will give your vet the chance to spot paw pad hyperkeratosis or any other potential issues.
If you live somewhere very hot or very cold, consider putting booties or socks on your dog. This will protect your dog's skin on his paws. By reducing irritation, you reduce the risk of health issues like hyperkeratosis.
You can also help prevent hyperkeratosis by protecting your dog from environmental factors. This means avoiding dirty water, keeping your yard clean, and giving your pup a parasite defense.
You can also reduce the risk of hyperkeratosis and another skin condition by making sure you feed your dog a balanced diet. This can prevent mineral deficiencies, such as zinc, which could lead to hyperkeratosis.
Understanding the Causes of Hyperkeratosis
There is no single underlying cause of hyperkeratosis, as various factors can lead to this hardened skin and the other associated issues.
One potential cause is genetics. If this is the case, expect the symptoms to start appearing while your dog is still young, usually about four to nine months old.
The Dogue de Bordeaux and the Irish terrier are particularly prone to the type of hyperkeratosis called naso-plantar keratoderma. With Labradors, the concern tends to be nasal parakeratosis.
Hyperkeratosis can also be related to age. As dog's age, their skin thickens. This can lead to calluses forming. Older dogs with pancreatic tumors or chronic liver disease have a higher risk of hyperkeratosis of their paw pads.
Parasites, autoimmune disorders, and certain infectious diseases, such as canine distemper can also cause rough skin and hyperkeratosis.
With autoimmune disorders, the problem stems from the fact that your dog's immune system attacks the connections linking skin cells.
That, in turn, can cause cracked, dry skin associated with hyperkeratosis. One example of a parasite causing hyperkeratosis is the biting sandfly.
This fly can cause Leishmaniasis. That condition, in turn, can lead to excessive keratin production.
Your dog may also develop hyperkeratosis if he has a zinc deficiency. In that case, your vet may suggest giving him zinc supplements.
How Vets Diagnose Dog Hyperkeratosis
If you suspect your dog has hyperkeratosis, you should take him to the vet. The vet will look for symptoms that are likely related to too much keratin production.
Expect a thorough physical exam, likely with extra attention to the areas affected by canine hyperkeratosis. These include the nose and paw pads.
Your vet may also run blood work to check for autoimmune diseases, zinc deficiency, infections, or parasites.
In the case of cracks on your dog's paws, the vet will likely want to confirm that they did not lead to any infections.
Your vet will likely not just diagnose dog paw hyperkeratosis. He will also try to discover the source of the issue. This lets him treat the problem at its source.
Common Questions about Paw Pad Hyperkeratosis
If you still have questions about hyperkeratosis on your dog's paw pads or nose, the following FAQs should help clear them up for you.
How Is Hyperkeratosis Treated in Dogs?
You cannot cure your dog's hyperkeratosis, but you can keep the condition under control.
Your vet may trim back extra hairs on particularly hairy dog feet as a way to improve comfort. He may also suggest applying a cream to your dog's paws regularly.
How Do You Get Rid of Hyperkeratosis?
Your dog's vet can occasionally remove the excess skin on the affected areas of your dog's body. He will also confirm there are no secondary infections.
Unfortunately, hyperkeratosis will always return, so any treatment is just a short-term solution designed to relieve your dog's discomfort.
What Dogs Are Prone to Hyperkeratosis?
Certain breeds, including cocker spaniels and brachycephalic breeds, may have a higher risk of developing hyperkeratosis.
Other breeds with higher risks include boxers, Dogues de Bordeaux, English bulldogs, Frenchies, Irish terriers, Bedlington terriers, and golden retrievers. I
f you have one of these breeds, pay attention to warning signs, such as dry skin, cracked skin, and discomfort.
How Do I Know If My Dog Has Hyperkeratosis?
To check if your furry friend has hyperkeratosis, you will have to examine him for health problems.
Please pay particular attention to his ears, nose, and pads, as well as his behavior related to those parts of his body.
Check for a crusty layer, bleeding, cracks, or a rough, dry appearance in these areas of the body.
You also want to be on the lookout for reduced activity, limping, and frequently licking his paws.
If your dog's ears, nose, or paws are sensitive, this can also be a warning sign.
If you suspect your dog has hyperkeratosis or another potential skin issue, take him to the vet for professional care and diagnosis.
Can I Put Vaseline on My Dog?
Yes, you can put Vaseline on your dog to treat skin conditions, including hyperkeratosis. However, there are better options.
If you apply Vaseline somewhere your pup can reach, he may consume too much and develop an upset stomach. This can even lead to diarrhea and vomiting.
Instead, ask your vet for other suggestions with natural ingredients that are less likely to cause tummy aches.
Examples include jojoba oil, manuka honey, Shea butter, and Epsom salt.
Can I Put Coconut Oil on My Dog?
Yes, you can put coconut oil on your dog. It is safe for dogs in small quantities, including if they eat it. Just make sure to opt for virgin coconut oil for the best results.
Can You Remove Excess Skin to Treat Your Dog's Paw Pad Hyperkeratosis?
Yes, you can sometimes remove excess skin as a way to improve your dog's comfort. However, it would help if you never attempted this yourself without first consulting your vet.
Your vet will need to teach you how to remove the excess, as this is not the simplest task. It is also worth noting that depending on the state of the excess skin on your dog's paw, your vet may suggest you DO NOT remove the excess yourself.
Instead, they may require you to bring your dog in periodically.
Listen to your vet if he says your pup is not a good candidate for at-home dog paw hyperkeratosis skin removal. Remember that dogs squirm.
If the skin is already challenging to remove and your dog squirms, you can seriously injury your pup.