• Dry Dog Nose or Hairy Paw Pads - About Hyperkeratosis in Dogs

    What is Hyperkeratosis?

    Does your dog have a dry crusty nose?
    Paw pads that look like they are growing hair?
    Cracking of the paw pads?

    Then it is quite possible that your dog has a condition called canine hyperkeratosis, which is caused by access keratin in the body. The symptoms of hyperkeratosis are when the skin or flesh on your pet's nose or paws:
    • Grows
    • Thickens
    • Becomes dry or dried out
    • Crusty looking
    • Hardens
    • Becomes callous-like
    • Looks hairy

    When I was researching canine hyperkeratosis, everything I was reading said there is no cure.

    In my experience, you can cure canine hyperkeratosis with a little work and maintenance. Perhaps they mean that your dog will always produce the additional keratin, but now you know how to keep it a bay. Or maybe there is not a bottle of pills you can give to make it go away. I do know you can cure it with a bit of love and TLC!

    What is Keratin?

    First of all, understand the condition. Keratin is an extremely strong protein that is a major component in skin, hair, nails, hooves, horns, and teeth. The amino acids which combine to form it have several unique properties and, depending on the levels of the various amino acids, it can be inflexible and hard, like hooves, or soft, as is the case with skin. Most people interact with this tissue after it is actually dead; hair, skin, paw pads, and nails are all formed from dead cells that the body sheds as new cells push up from underneath. If the dead cells are kept in good condition, they will serve as an insulating layer to protect the delicate new tissue below them.

    Think about your fingernails for a moment. The dead cells that created keratin to help form your fingernails has produced a protective layer over a very sensitive part of your skin. If you have ever cut too deep on your nail you know it hurts like and maybe even bled. Some people's nails grow faster than others, and this is the same with dogs.


    Meet some friends of mine, this is Mabel, Ernie, and Wooly Bully. All 3 of these English Bulldogs are suffering from nasal hyperkeratosis.

    First of all, let's talk noses. If your dog has what seems to be a very dry nose, it is probably hyperkeratosis, which can be quite easy to remedy.

    There are many products out there to help, and some work better than others. Many times they lick it off! What I found makes a difference is to rub it in well, and then get a warm washcloth and gently rub their nose with the cloth to start removing the access keratin from the nose. Yes, I am talking chunks of nose will fall off to reveal the beautiful nose underneath!

    Products out there include Nose Butter, Musher's Secret, Snout Soother, Coconut Oil, Olive Oil, Dermoscent and Aquaphor.

    CLICK HERE and you can view our forum that has many recommended pet products.


    Hello Kittys... get lost dumb dogs-pawpadshairy-jpg

    If your dogs paw pads suddenly become "hairy", it can be for many reasons. Since a lot of keratin is released from the paw pads, you might see it develop as your dog becomes more of a couch potato and doesn't walk around on different or rough surfaces much. It is much more common to see 'hairy paws' in senior dogs, much due to not filing them down naturally as well as how much keratin is released from their bodies. Sometimes the growth may even become pasty and smell, which could be from yeast and bacteria. This can lead to other problems like interdigital cysts.

    So how do you get rid of hairy paws?

    Interestingly, those hairs will need to be trimmed off on a regular basis. I know what you are thinking! "TRIMMED???! Won't I be cutting my dogs skin?", you ask?

    No, the keratin is more like your very own hair or fingernails. So it does not hurt for it to be cut.

    What does hurt, is when they get a build up on these hairs, and their paws crack or get infected. I can only imagine it may feel a bit like walking on grains of rice.

    With every case of hairy paws I have had over the years, I was able to make it go away, and keep it at bay, by doing bi-weekly trimmings and rubbing aquaphor into the paw pad.

    Many online blogs and sources speak of giving vitamin A helps reduce hyperkeratosis. NuVet Plus is a great supplement to boost the immune system and contains 1000.0 IU of Vitamin A along with all the other great natural human grade vitiamins, minerals, herbs, antioxidants, ect. Worth a try since it has a money back guarantee (and it's made in the USA).

    This video below has a demonstration on trimming the hairy paw pads:

    Possible Causes of Hyperkeratosis

    Inherited: For some dogs, developing hyperkeratosis is a matter of genes: Labrador and Golden Retrievers, as well as Dogues de Bordeaux, and Irish and Bedlington Terriers are all known to develop this condition. When hyperkeratosis develops as a result of inheritance, it generally occurs in the first year of a dog’s life.

    Idiopathic hyperkeratosis: This generally occurs in older pets for numerous possible reasons, less activity and more keratin released from the body.

    Leishmaniasis: Caused by a parasite frequently carried by sandflies, leishmaniasis can lead pets to develop hyperkeratosis as one of its symptoms. Fortunately, this parasite-caused illness can be managed with medication.

    Canine Distemper: This virus is relatively rare now, due to vaccinations given to puppies. When distemper strikes, it can cause all sorts of symptoms, among them hyperkeratosis, typically on the nose.

    Zinc Responsive Dermatosis: Hyperkeratosis can occur as a result of zinc responsive dermatosis, a skin disease that occurs when dogs do not properly absorb zinc. It can be treated with zinc supplements, and has a good prognosis.

    Pemphigus Foliaceus: One of the most common autoimmune skin diseases diagnosed in cats and dogs, pemphigus foliaceus causes pustules and hyperkeratosis to form on the paws. This disease can be diagnosed with a biopsy, and is treatable with immunosuppressive drugs.
    Comments 3 Comments
    1. manydogs's Avatar
      manydogs -
      Interesting and informative-thank you!!
    1. boomsboo's Avatar
      boomsboo -
      Wow I would have never known! Thank you so much for the info!
    1. doggie3479's Avatar
      doggie3479 -
      Our dog, an English Bull Terrier has this and it is a major pain. He has it on his foot pads. We've tried a huge array of creams, balms, and medicines and nothing works because its inherited. We actually have to cut all the extra keratin off at least twice a week. If we don't he gets sore feet when he walks. It's a huge pain in the butt.
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