Also known as ‘hairy feet’, hyperkeratosis can be a pretty serious problem in our canine friends. First of all, it’s painful, which is why you should always take your pooch to the vet if you see something’s going on with his paws or nose.
Secondly, it can be caused by a number of factors, and there are different ways to manage it, all of which we are going to discuss in today’s article. Read on to find out more!
Canine Hyperkeratosis Causes
There are many factors that can cause hyperkeratosis in dogs. You might think that not caring for your dog’s paws is the first, but the truth is that while it does influence the hardness of the skin in that area, it’s not the primary factor.
The most important aspects that can lead to hyperkeratosis are age, genetic material, and actual medical problems such as Leishmaniasis, parasites, or Canine Distemper.
There are dog breeds that are more predisposed to developing hyperkeratosis than others. Here are several examples:
- Golden retrievers
- English and French Bulldogs
- Irish terriers
Zinc deficiencies can also lead to hyperkeratosis and while in young dogs the condition might be reverted to some degree, if it appears due to a mineral deficiency in older dogs, it will merely have to be managed, not treated.
However, the most important factor that leads to this medical condition is age. As dogs get older, their skin naturally begins to become thicker and thicker. Chronic health problems can make a dog’s body function differently from that of a young one.
But what is hyperkeratosis, anyway? It’s a fancy name, but this condition has a simple definition. Hyperkeratosis can appear in a specific area of the body, and in most dogs’ cases, it shows up in their paws and nose.
If he or she suffers from this disease, your pooch’s body will effectively produce too much keratin, which will lead to the thickening and creation of additional layers of skin on their paws or nose.
Signs of Hyperkeratosis in Dogs
The most visible changes can be seen on a dog’s paws. Sometimes, hyperkeratosis might be present in other body areas such as the nose or the ears, but its most common location is the paws. In fact, this is the reason why the condition is also known as ‘hairy feet’.
There isn’t a universal rule as to how a dog’s paws should look if he or she has hyperkeratosis. What you will see are rough and crusty layers that become apparent on the surface of the dry and normal skin of the paw.
Dogs can also find walking painful, which is why they will begin to avoid any sort of physical exercise. As you know, all healthy dogs love to spend time outdoors, so that should give you a clue as to whether you have to take your canine friend to the vet or not.
Some dogs can also constantly lick their paws, limp, or their paws can bleed.
Treating and Soothing Hyperkeratosis
Even though hyperkeratosis doesn’t actually have a specific therapy, it can be managed so that your dog gets to live a happy and comfortable life even with this condition.
Removing the additional layers of skin that might have appeared on your dog’s skin is the right way of going about things, but a veterinarian should be the person to instruct you on how to properly do this.
Furthermore, we’d like to point out that cutting the excess skin is far easier and convenient, and also pain-free for your canine buddy if you’ve given him a light bath or soaked his or her paws in warm and soapy water for half an hour or so.
Vets can also recommend a variety of topical creams and, in some cases, antibiotics — especially if your dog’s skin is cracked, and bleeding is present.
But the most important thing to understand about this condition is that you will have to do your best at managing it in the future. Unfortunately, there is no miracle cure that can help you or your dog get rid of it completely.
If you have no experience or your dog doesn’t have the necessary patience for the procedure, just go to the vet once every two weeks or so, so that the keratin shell on the paws is removed by a professional.
Dogs that are walked without booties or socks have a harder time handling the pain that they feel. Things like snow, ice, or hot pavement can not only make it difficult for your canine friend to bear the feel and pain, but they can also damage the healthy skin on their paws, making way for other local skin complications.
Making sure that your dog’s paws are moisturized properly is another great idea. Use an ointment or a natural balm several times a day to prevent the skin on Fido’s paws from becoming dry.
Is There Any Way to Prevent Hyperkeratosis in Dogs?
Young dogs don’t usually develop hyperkeratosis unless they are genetically predisposed to it or have a zinc deficiency.
Taking your pooch to the vet on a regular basis, such as once or twice a year for check-ups (even after the vaccination plan has been completed) can ensure that your veterinarian sees your dog and notices any changes that might lead to severe hyperkeratosis.
It can also prevent serious diseases such as those that are known to cause hyperkeratosis (Distemper, Leishmaniasis etc).
Once installed, hyperkeratosis cannot be reverted. It can simply be managed.
If you buy or adopt a puppy breed that’s known to have a higher chance of developing this skin problem, you have to take him/her to the vet even more often so as to spot the first signs and learn how to handle the situation.