Paw Pad Hyperkeratosis In Dogs

A dog’s paw pads offer them the protection needed to explore the outside world.

While their paw pads may have a rough exterior, they should not be excessively dry or cracked at any point.

A dog with rough or cracked paws may be experiencing paw pad hyperkeratosis, in addition to a slew of uncomfortable symptoms that come along with it.

So what is paw pad hyperkeratosis, and how does it impact our furry friends?

In this article we will dive into the details of this strange paw condition, and help you better understand how you can help your pup.

Paw Pad Hyperkeratosis In Dogs

What Is Paw Pad Hyperkeratosis In Dogs?

The term hyperkeratosis refers to an overgrowth of skin cells on the surface of a dog’s skin.

Dogs with hyperkeratosis will have a build up of rough tissue on the surface of their nose or paws, while dogs free of the condition will simply have a thin layer of tough skin.

This rough exterior will often appear dry and cracked, almost having the appearance of tiny bristles.

In both humans and dogs alike, keratin is the main protein that makes up the barrier of the skin.

Though keratin is essential in creating healthy skin, too much keratin is never a good thing.

An overgrowth of keratin will result in a rough surface that easily collects bacteria, as well as the increased risk of cracking in dry regions.

Why Do Dogs Get Paw Pad Hyperkeratosis?

In many cases of paw pad hyperkeratosis, there is not a concrete cause of their condition.

While the main cause of their condition is not always obvious, there are a few common factors that are known to contribute to the development of hyperkeratosis in our canine friends.

Some of the most common factors that contribute to the onset of paw pad hyperkeratosis in dogs include:


Some breeds are more prone to developing paw pad hyperkeratosis than other furry friends.

Due to the fact that this condition is seen most in certain pups, this leads experts to believe that it can be a genetic condition.

For example, both Labrador Retrievers and Cocker Spaniels often suffer from hyperkeratosis of the paws and nose.


As a dog ages, their skin will typically become thicker and thicker.

Due to this thickening of the tissue, some dogs will develop paw pad hyperkeratosis if the keratin production is out of control.

Infectious Disease

Some infectious diseases are known to cause thickening of the nasal and paw pad tissue.

Canine distemper virus is most often responsible for hyperkeratosis of the skin, especially on the paw pads.

Chronic Skin Conditions

Chronic skin conditions can easily lead to hyperkeratosis in some canine friends.

Inflamed skin can begin to thicken over time, causing the tissue to build up to the point of excess.

Once this occurs, this can set paw pad hyperkeratosis into motion.

As we mentioned above, many cases of paw pad hyperkeratosis are idiopathic, or occur without a known cause.

By educating yourself on the potential triggers of this condition, you can have a better understanding of your pup’s rough paw pads.

What Are The Signs Of Paw Pad Hyperkeratosis

If your pup is suffering with paw pad hyperkeratosis, there are a few common symptoms that you may notice in your canine friend.

Some of the most common signs of hyperkeratosis of the paw pads include:

  • Rough texture of the paw pads
  • Dry, cracked tissue on the paw pads
  • Crusting and flaking on the paws
  • Inflamed tissue around the paws
  • Limping
  • Licking the paws
  • Sensitivity of the paws
  • Odor from the paws

Due to the fact that paw pad hyperkeratosis can weaken the tissue of the paws, this can lead to an array of painful complications for the pup affected.

Not only can the compromised paw pads easily trap bacteria, but they can become even more painful with each step they take.

As you can see, this cosmetic issue can quickly turn into a serious complication.

Diagnosing Paw Pad Hyperkeratosis

In most cases of paw pad hyperkeratosis, a simple physical exam is enough to achieve diagnosis.

Most vets will perform an in depth skin exam to search for any other abnormalities, as well as evidence of other underlying skin conditions.

If there are no other abnormalities on their exam, most vets will feel comfortable with diagnosing paw pad hyperkeratosis.

If your vet stumbles upon any abnormal lesions or growths on the skin, they may suggest a biopsy or skin scraping of the region.

Some diagnostics can be performed in your vet’s office, while other tissues will need to be sent out to a lab.

Every situation will vary, so it’s best to just trust your vet’s guidance.

Treating Paw Pad Hyperkeratosis In Dogs

When a dog is diagnosed with paw pad hyperkeratosis, your veterinarian will need to determine the best plan to manage their symptoms.

There is no set cure for paw pad hyperkeratosis, so each pup will require an individual approach.

The first step in determining the best management plan is investigating the cause of their paw pad hyperkeratosis.

Though some cases will be idiopathic, it’s still best to explore the possibilities and rule out underlying causes.

If there is a condition that is contributing to the development of your dog’s hyperkeratosis, your vet will need to address that first.

If your dog is experiencing any skin irritation or secondary infection as a result of their paw pad hyperkeratosis, your vet will need to address these issues first.

Your vet may suggest starting your dog on antibiotics, offering daily skin soaks, and even applying ointment to any irritated tissue.

Your vet may even suggest exercise restrictions if their paw pad injuries are severe.

For some unfortunate pups, paw pad hyperkeratosis is a chronic issue.

If this is the case for your furry friend, you may need to implement a hydration plan for their paws going forward.

Some veterinarians will have prescription ointments they recommend in their office, while others can simply approve of over the counter balms you find on your own time.

Final Thoughts

The tissue on our dog’s paws may be tough, but they can still fall victim to conditions like hyperkeratosis.

Fast action is essential in preventing any secondary complications in these pups, so we always suggest contacting your vet if you notice any changes on your dog’s paw pads.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *