All You Need To Know About Hyperkeratosis In Dogs

Hyperkeratosis is a condition that causes thickening of the outer layer of skin (the epidermis). It occurs when there are too many cells on the surface of the skin.

This results in an increase in thickness of the stratum corneum, which makes the skin look rough or scaly. Though not life-threatening, this condition should be managed. 

All You Need to Know About Hyperkeratosis in Dogs

There are things you can do to help your dog, and there may even be something you can do to prevent this condition from occurring.

If you have a dog with hyperkeratosis, or are simply curious about the condition, keep reading to find out more! Here, we will go through what this condition is, what could cause it, and how you can help. 

Ready to jump in? Let’s get going.

What is Hyperkeratosis?

Hyperkeratosis is a medical term that refers to the thickening of the outer layer (epidermis) of skin. It’s usually caused by an overgrowth of cells, called keratinocytes.

This causes them to pile up on top of one another, forming a hard callus or scab-like growth. The epidermis contains dead cells that have been replaced with new ones, so this process is actually normal.

However, if the condition becomes too severe, it may lead to pain and discomfort for your pet.

The most common form of hyperkeratosis is known as footpad hyperkeratosis. In dogs, this occurs when there is a buildup of the protein keratin under the pads of their feet.

When they walk around, their pads rub together, causing friction against the ground and becoming inflamed. This leads to painful sores on their paws. Foot pad hyperkeratosis is also referred to as “paw pad dermatitis.”

Dogs can also experience nasal hyperkeratosis (or dog nose hyperkeratosis). This affects the nostrils and sometimes the ears, and is more commonly seen in breeds such as pugs and bulldogs.

There are other forms of hyperkeratosis, but these have less serious effects and are not as common. For example, ear canal hyperkeratosis happens when hair grows inside the ear canal instead of outside. This results in a build-up of keratin along the canal walls.

How Does it Affect Your Dog?

If your dog has hyperkeratosis, they may experience itchiness, irritation, inflammation, redness, swelling, and bleeding. They may also scratch at themselves excessively, which can damage their nails and cause bleeding. If the affected area gets infected, it could become very painful and require antibiotics.

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In some cases, the condition becomes chronic, meaning there is no relief from itching and scratching, even after treatment. Chronic paw pad dermatitis is often associated with nail dystrophy (thinning of the nails), and it can be difficult to treat without removing the nails first.

While it’s important to keep your dog clean, especially if he or she has any kind of skin infection, don’t bathe them every day. Some people claim bathing daily will help prevent the condition, but doing so can actually make it worse because it removes oils and dirt that protect the skin. 

What Causes Hyperkeratosis?

The cause of hyperkeratosis is unknown, though it could be due to a number of reasons. We will go through these reasons below to get a better idea.


Genetics is likely to play a part in hyperkeratosis in dogs. There are many types of hyperkeratosis, and each type tends to run in families.

If you notice that your dog has inherited this problem, then you should talk to your veterinarian about whether there are any treatments available.

Nerve Damage

Hyperkeratosis is often linked to nerve damage. Nerves carry signals between the brain and the rest of the body, and they are responsible for controlling how muscles work.

When nerves send incorrect messages to the muscles, they can cause issues like muscle spasms and twitching. It is possible that nerve damage causes hyperkeratosis by sending faulty signals to the skin cells.

Zinc Deficiency

Zinc deficiency is another potential cause of hyperkeratotic conditions. Zinc is an essential mineral that helps regulate cell growth and repair. A lack of zinc can lead to dry, flaky skin, and excessive shedding.


Puppies are prone to developing hyperkeratosis simply because they grow quickly and shed frequently. During this time, the skin is still growing and healing itself, and therefore needs extra care.


It is thought that certain diets can contribute to hyperkeratosis. Diets high in carbohydrates can increase the production of mucus, which can clog up pores and cause excess oil on the surface of the skin.

In addition, diets low in protein can result in thinner coats, which makes it easier for the fur to come off.

Other Potential Causes

There are a number of other things that could be causing your dog to have this condition. To be sure, you will have to get in touch with your local vet and some tests might have to be run. The following list includes some other potential causes:

  • Cushing’s Disease
  • Cancer
  • Respiratory Illness
  • Trauma from rubbing or scratching
  • Autoimmune Disease
  • Mite Infections
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Can it be Treated?

All You Need to Know About Hyperkeratosis in Dogs

If your dog suffers from hyperkeratosis, it is best to seek veterinary attention as soon as possible. This way, you can start treating the issue right away. Your vet may recommend using topical treatments such as creams or ointments.

These products can help reduce itching and irritation caused by the condition. They also contain ingredients that promote healthy hair follicles.

Sometimes, however, more severe methods of intervention may be needed. This all depends on how serious the condition is in your dog.

Does it Require Treatment?

Not all dogs with hyperkeratosis require treatment for it. However, if your dog shows signs of pain or discomfort, then you need to take action immediately.

This is especially true if the condition is getting worse over time. There are no known cures for this condition, but most dogs can live happily even if they do have it. For more serious cases, medical intervention will be needed.

Treating Hyperkeratosis

The first step when dealing with hyperkeratosis is to make sure that your dog is comfortable. This means making sure that he has access to plenty of water and food.

He should also have a clean environment where his coat doesn’t become matted down. If your dog is suffering from pain, then you will want to give him something to ease the symptoms.

Some medications used to treat hyperkeratosis include antihistamines, steroids, and antibiotics.

You should always consult your veterinarian before giving any medication to your pet.

Feet Soaking

If your canine companion is suffering from hyperkeratosis on their paws, you can try feet soaking. To do this, you need to soak your dog’s paw pads in warm water with Epsom salt for 15-20 minutes.

Then, use a soft brush to gently scrub them until they feel smooth again. It is important to note that this method works best if your dog isn’t experiencing any pain.

You can also use ointments and balms to help keep their paws nourished, which will prevent painful cracking.

Keratin Trimming

Another option is to trim the keratin. This should be done in an environment that is safe, and with sterile equipment, like a razor blade. Professionals should do this, as it is incredibly easy to accidentally harm the dog.

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Can You Prevent Hyperkeratosis?

There are some ways that you can prevent hyperkeratosis in your dog. One of these is to avoid exposing them to harsh chemicals.

Avoid cleaning your home with bleach or ammonia. Also, don’t let your dog spend too much time outdoors during the summer months. The sun’s rays can dry out their skin, causing it to crack.

Some breeds are prone to hyperkeratosis. In particular, Labradors, Irish Terriers, and Cocker Spaniels. Ensuring that you feed your dog a healthy, balanced diet significantly reduces the risk of them experiencing this condition.

Final Thoughts

Hyperkeratosis is not a life-threatening disease, but it does cause discomfort. Therefore, it is important to get it treated quickly. Fortunately, there are many options available to help manage the problem.

You will need to monitor your dog’s health and their condition to ensure that it does not worsen as time goes on. If you notice that your pet’s hyperkeratosis seems to be getting worse, you should make an appointment with your local vet as soon as possible. 

If you have a dog that suffers from this condition, you will know how essential it is to keep them happy. A good diet, exercise, and healthy lifestyle in general is the key to having a happy dog.

Megan Turner