Healthy Pup Highlight: Hyperkeratosis

Howdy Y’all! 

Today we’re investigating a little known health issue that can affect many pups, often without their people noticing something amiss. 

Hyperkeratosis is thickening of skin due to an excess of keratin produced by the body. 

Many dismiss it as mere ‘dryness’ or ‘chapped’ skin, but if your pup has cracked skin on his/her nose and/or paws, it is important to ask your vet about hyperkeratosis. Depending on your dog’s age, medical history, and overall health, hyperkeratosis can represent anything from an inherited trait, a zinc deficiency (often caused by diet), a history of a Canine Distemper infection as a puppy, or another underlying issue such as lupus or other internal issues. Ask your vet about performing a biopsy on the suspected keratotic tissue to properly diagnose the underlying cause.

Some dogs are genetically predisposed to hyperkeratosis, as it can be  inherited. If your pup came from a breeder, ask if they have seen hyperkeratosis in any of their dogs. It is also helpful to locate your pup’s litter-mates, and half-siblings, to see if any of them present the gene.

There are two main visible forms of hyperkeratosis, nasal (affecting the nose), and  digital (affecting the paws.)

In nasal hyperkeratosis, the tissue of the nose becomes dry, thick, and hardened. This occurs more often in Brachycephalic (snub-nosed breeds).

Digital hyperkeratosis can affect one or all paws and can affect your pup’s comfort level in walking and playing. The paw pads tend to thicken and grow ‘hairy’ or ‘crystal-like’ structures along the edges. In certain cases, it can also cause the nails to grow quickly. It is important to trim these nails often.

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