How we treated our dog’s nasodigital hyperkeratosis — wait, what?

I thought to write this since as an animal-lover, finding a solution to our woof’s problem lifted such a weight off my back. Hopefully it helps someone else’s puppy out too.

A few weeks ago, Casey started limping. We first assumed it was a pulled muscle since she does this often up north when she runs around. She had been roughhousing (ruff-housing?) in the snow a lot with Junior.

back yard battlecries

That’d do it…

After a few days it hadn’t resolved itself though. I checked her paws quickly and they seemed a bit cracked. Of course! The freezing cold! Salt! Either of these! We bought some cream from PetSmart and when I went to apply it, I noticed a strange texture on her feet.

hyperkeratosis dog paws, almost feathery in texture

Poor dog.

I looked it up and (thankfully) this is actually a thing. It’s called nasodigital hyperkeratosis. As I’ve discovered it happens when keratin cells go into overdrive (overweight and older dogs seem to be prone to it, as well as some specific breeds) and these hard ‘feathers’ sprout on the dog’s paws, nose or both. I’ve also read that there is no cure.

Most info given on forums and sites say the vet will trim the feathers off for you, and even show you how to do it yourself. I came near my dog with some little scissors and she was nervous, so I didn’t try it.

Anyway, the purchased solution I found:

Dermoscent Bio Balm for HyperkeratosisIn the deepest, darkest and oldest corners of internet forums I found tips from owners, vets and groomers. Many advised Bag Balm, which is primarily used on cow udders, but many said that everything sticks to it afterward. I also didn’t come across many results of its use, just recommendations to try it.

Only one person mentioned Bio Balm. She said the vet had recommended Vitamin A supplements, steroid shots and thyroid tests. She eventually tried Bio Balm (maybe the vet advised it, I can’t remember) and she said the feathers began falling off her dog’s paws immediately.

That was enough to convince me to try it.

You can find it here — Free shipping!

It is a bit pricey, but it only took about a week to arrive. The feathers do not ‘fall off’ (for Casey anyway), but! After one application, her paws are much softer and the keratin has either softened or disappeared from many areas. Most importantly, walking seems less painful for her.

I’ve applied it a second time today and she didn’t even want to lick it off. She actually looked to enjoy the paw massage as I rubbed it into all her feathery nooks and crannies.

If I had a pumice stone handy to use with this stuff, I think the keratin would grind right off. Maybe I’ll try that.

trim dog

“Or maybe you won’t….”

I update this post with the results of continued use. If you’re desperately seeking out a solution you can give your puppy without having to bring her in for continued vet visits for trimming, I strongly recommend Bio Balm.

It’s weird that 2/5 of our animals have odd paws. Maybe if Jane ever lets us touch her paws we should try this stuff, providing it’s safe for cats too. Too bad it says “For dogs only” on the package.

Have you ever had a dog with hyperkeratosis on the nose or paws? Did you find a solution? Let me know about your dog’s experience in the comments — and if you try Bio Balm, please let me know how it worked for you.

UPDATE [July 29, 2015]:

This stuff softened the ‘feathers’ and made them stay closer to the paw — some of them fell off during paw massages, or I’d notice there were less during the following application. We used the balm for a couple of weeks nightly. This is a definite recommend. Casey no longer limps and hasn’t for a few months.

Shortly after starting her application, I noticed Junior also had the feathers. His were really long in some spots. Although he doesn’t like his feet touched, he let me apply the balm as long as I remained calm so he didn’t get as nervous.

Doesn’t it seem weird that two dogs of different breeds ended up with the exact same paw condition I’ve never seen in my lifetime of having animal friends? I’m convinced this has to do with environment or diet now.

I will update with pictures soon! Moving house and unpacking comes first unfortunately. Aw, poor bloggy. I still love you.

If anyone would like to share their results or even another treatment, please leave a comment. Happy doggy paws. 🙂

UPDATE [August 31, 2015]:

(Happy birthday Uncle Doug! I know you don’t read my blog but you’re my favourite Uncle Doug ever!)

I finally remembered to take some “After”s of Casey’s paws today. They feel very smooth and much better.

dog paws after Dermoscent treatment for hyperkeratosis

Front paw

dog paws after Dermoscent treatment for hyperkeratosis

Back paw, side view

dog paws after Dermoscent treatment for hyperkeratosis

Back paw

There are bits that still look a bit ‘feathery’, but they feel smooth. On her front paw, there is a little crack but it doesn’t feel hard/stiff the way the keratin feathers felt, so I think that’s unrelated cracking.

The roughest parts I can find seem to be on the sides of her toe pads, and those are more like a callous. She doesn’t limp or seem to be in pain and hasn’t since treatment with Dermoscent. I’d call this one a success, and I still have more than half of the balm in that little 50mL tub in case we need it later.

Happy end of August to you!

Update: [December 17, 2017]:

We were discussing this at our family Christmas and one of my relatives recommended Pawtector from the Natural Dog Company. She said that within a month of daily use it made her boxer’s paws smooth again. I have not personally tried it on our dogs yet, but I plan on trying it out if we have another flare-up in the future.

If you can’t find Dermoscent Bio Balm, or if you want to try something different, Pawtector/Pawtection sounds like a great alternative.

As always, please feel free to leave your results in the comments section! Wishing you and your dogs soft paws always.

About Nik

Writer, occasional photographer, common street juggler. I enjoy cooking, crafting, a clean house, animals, and senses of humour. Oh yeah and being the mom of my boy John.
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  1. Victoria Durham

    Any updates regarding your dog’s digital hyperkeratosis? Are you still using the cream? Is the cream working and have the keratin ‘feathers’ diminished or resolved? My 15 yo female black lab is experiencing this condition. Prior to today, I had never heard of it. I am hoping for gentle ways to ease her discomfort and manage this issue. Any information is greatly welcomed!

    • You’re right! I totally forgot to update this post. We got into the swing of decluttering our house to stage and sell it, and now we’re moving! I will fully update soon with pictures when I can. I will say that for our yellow lab, the ‘feathers’ have softened and flattened closer to her paw, almost as if they’re trying to blend back into the foot again. She walks so much better now and has not appeared to be in pain for months. We used the balm for a couple of weeks and found it made a huge difference. Could have used it for longer and it may have completely fallen off. The nice thing about it is the balm will last many applications, even though it’s a small container. I would definitely recommend trying it, because it was a huge help for her… AND!

      Interesting thing about this: Soon after noticing her hyperkeratosis and getting the balm, I noticed our boxer also had it! Now I feel like this has to be environmental or diet-oriented, because two different breeds getting this strange condition within weeks of each other? This was near the end of winter, so I’m wondering if it had anything to do with road salt initially, or maybe licking paws after being on salty sidewalks?

      Please let me know if you try the balm and if it helps your girl.

  2. My 2 golden retrievers got the same condition in their paws. I suspect it is the chemical used to treat the fur from cows to make it into a smooth lasting leather for sofas. One of my goldens used this leather sofa everyday and developed the feathers in her paws. The other golden never went in that sofa and was fine. After a few years the second golden starred using the leather sofa and soon after developed the condition.
    Do any of you have leather sofas?

    • I have leather sofas. I also read elsewhere older dogs may get this easier. My lab is 10 y/o.
      -Karen (FL)

      • I think I read that about older dogs once too. Ours are now 5 and 3, though the 3 year old (boxer) has salt and peppering on his face already. Old soul? Haha. Still no leather here. Going to ask our vet about zinc as some others have mentioned.

    • Interesting…I have leather sofas and my dog just got this condition also. She is a 4 yr old lab mix and eats really well (a little chubby!) What do you guys feed your dogs? If is could be diet related, it would be interesting to see what food they eat. Mine eats a brand from Tractor Supply feed store called 4health . I use a grain free chicken and veggie and a regular (with grain) salmon and sweet potato mixed together

      • Our dogs are not allowed on the couches. 🙂 Nevertheless ours are all fabric as we have cats whose claws would poke holes in any leather couch if we had one. We’ve lost a few good computer chairs to the kitties so we won’t waste that money on couches. 🙂 The dogs have fancy (fabric) beds all around the house though to stay cozy.

        As for diet, our dogs are each on their specific foods now. One had pancreatitis and now he is on a gastrointestinal specific low-fat Royal Canin (sorry I typoed before!) prescription diet. The other is on a weight management Simply Nourish (Petsmart) food with glucosamine and chondroitin for her joints.

        The past few years it has proven to be more of a winter issue for us, and since moving to a rural home rather than the suburbs I find it has never been as serious. Unsure if that has anything to do with it! Strangely, our boxer used to get seasonal flank alopecia (common to boxers) and have two bald patches every spring. Now that we live out here, you can just barely make out where those used to happen.

        So it could be food or environment, or both. For us though, it isn’t leather.

        • Royal Canin food? Lol

          • Oopsie. Typo from autocorrect. Thanks! Haha.
            Royal Canin is not having an effect on our dogs anyway! Haha. The foot feathers happened long before Junior had to eat that stuff. They are both eating Simply Nourish Weight Management for Large Breeds for now and seem to be feather-free for now. We’ll see come winter.

  3. I think the chemicals to treat cow skin into leather for sofas is causing this.

    • Interesting theory! We’re not “anti leather” but we have 3 cats so any leather furniture would be ruined in no time — that said, no real leather in our house. We have a fake leather ottoman table but this came after the dogs developed the condition. It happened while we were living in the suburbs during winter. My initial thought was road/driveway salt. Where you live do they salt the roads in winter?

  4. Dietary cause: hyperkeratosis can be induced by zinc deficency.

    • Interesting! Thank you. Our large dogs eat Simply Nourish large breed adult formula which has Zinc (min) 175 mg/kg. I’m wondering now if that is not enough.

  5. Do you keep your dogs vaccinations up to date? Distemper can cause this symptom, and is highly contagious.

    • Yes, our dogs’ vaccinations are up to date and they have never shown signs of canine distemper. Interesting though! Thanks for your comment.

      • This is a new condition for me as well, I also have had dogs for over twenty years and have never even heard of it….I had already added zinc to my girls supplements and though I had added them for her immune system…I suspect that has help her feet and nose from getting worse…I will be trying the Dermoscent Bio Balm, thank you so much for the information…

        • You’re welcome! Good to know the zinc may also help. I hope the Dermoscent works for your dog as well.

          • Just noticed this on my girl’s paws. She has also had an inexplicable rough spot on her nose off and on for a couple years. When I read the comment about zinc, I remembered having read here that Siberian Huskies are one breed that have problems absorbing zinc. Thanks for the tip on the cream. I will try it along with zinc.

          • Thanks for the link! Checking it out now. I hope the balm helps your dog. If it comes back for our dogs we’ll have to look into some kind of zinc supplement. Our boxer can’t have his food switched much due to a recent bout of pancreatitis.

  6. Stumbled across your post as both my dogs have this.Mia has it on both nose and pads and is more pronounced and Jersey’s is slight and only noticeable on her pads. We have a leather couch too and the spend alot of time on it. Jersey had TPLO surgery and I bought and oil called ” the powe of 3 E’s”for inflammation ….in one month it cleared right up. She also had a thin coat and suffers from winter alopecia. Her coat is super thick and soft now after 3 months. So I started giving it to Mia. Her nose has visibly started to clear up and her pads are much softer. She has been taking the oil for about 6 weeks. Can’t wait to see if she clears up as well.

  7. Stumbled across your post as both my dogs have this. Mia has it on both her nose and pads and it is more pronounced then Jersey’s. Hers is slight and only noticeable on her pads. We also have a leather couch and they spend alot of time on it. 4 months ago Jersey had TPLO surgery and I bought and oil called “The power of 3 E’s” for inflammation and arthritis ….in one month it cleared her keratosis right up. She also has a thin sparse coat and suffers with winter alopecia. Her coat is super thick and soft now after 3 months. After seeing how good Jersey responded to this oil I started giving it to Mia. Her nose has visibly started to clear up and her pads are much softer. She has been taking the oil for about 6 weeks. Can’t wait to see if she clears up as well.
    This oil is made up of three different oils.
    Camelina oil which is omega 3

    African red palm oil vitamin A and E

    Unrefined rice bran oil another source of vitamin E and lecithin

    • That’s amazing! We’ll have to try it too and see if it is a good solution for our two as the feathers are coming back again. (Haven’t balmed in a while.) I’m guessing it is a vitamin deficiency for us — tough for me to accept that since our one dog is now on a specialized diet from the vet that costs an arm and a leg to keep his pancreatitis in check.

      Thank you for the insight!

    • Thank you for your knowledge my patsy does too

  8. If present on more than one animal, there is a cause. If not distemper, as dogs are vaccinated, and would be extremely sick, chances are they have hookworms. Hookworms lead to hyperkeratosis of the footpad. You should make an appointment with the vet, to rule this out. If they are on Heartguard heartworm preventative, it will treat. However it is highly contagious and will be in the soil and grass. It needs to be treated to prevent reinfection. Sodium borate can be used on the ground, but will kill your grass. Everything in your house should be disinfected. Yes, the moisurizing treatments and natural ointments help, but as stated, when present in more than one animal, it is considered a secondary condition caused by a primary underlying condition, hence the hookworms. Hope this helps!

    • Thank you for the info. Our boxer gets fairly regular tests done for his thyroid and chronic pancreatitis. No underlying issues have come up, unless those (pancreatitis and thyroid) are somehow related to hyperkeratosis. He goes back in tomorrow so I will be sure to ask — the vet is usually quite thorough when he finds an issue though, especially pertaining to worms.

      Both dogs were dewormed as puppies, have no common symptoms of hookworms (poor appetite for the boxer yes, but that’s his pancreatitis), are always supervised outside (they’re barkers, so we don’t leave them out alone) and as we have a toddler our home is pretty compulsively disinfected. I don’t think this will be the underlying cause, although I’m sure it is something commonly shared as you’ve said. Others have suggested a mineral deficiency, which I think may be the cause. Still, one dog is on a $70 bag of food every 3 weeks and the boxer is on a $140 bag (bland, low-fat diet for pancreatitis). I’m not sure beyond going raw what I could do differently.

      Our oldest cat is 16 and has horned paws, which you’d think could be a related issue but she’s had them since a kitten and that was about 3 houses ago for us. Our other two cats are ‘normal’, if you can call a cat that. 😉

      The vet recently treated our horn-pawed cat for an infection she had with her toenail being cut too deep at the groomer’s. He simply clipped the horns (they have no blood supply) before administering the antibiotic and painkiller, and never mentioned anything bad about them. Neither have previous vets we have had.

      Anyway, like I said. I’ll inquire about it. My vet is always up for making more money so I’m sure he’ll be happy to test.

    • Just wanted to add, our grass is about half an acre’s worth, and our lab loves rolling in the mud, so we’re not putting anything in it. Haha.

  9. Writing an update. Mia’s nose has 99% cleared up after being on the power of 3 oil for 7 weeks. I never thought I would see her smooth nose again. Her pads however have gotten worse since it started snowing. We don’t walk her on roads ever! Next step is to ask our vet to test her for vitamin and mineral deficiencies…

    • Thank you for the update, Wendy! I’m especially interested in the Power of 3 oil if you say it’s also helped Jersey’s alopecia? Our boxer, Junior, gets seasonal flank alopecia every February/March, and it lasts until summer. Our vet tested his thyroid which is often correlated with hair loss on the flanks and it came back “low-normal” so he is not sure that’s the issue. From what a couple of boxer owners have told us, alopecia is not unheard of.
      I’m so glad it’s helped her nose, even if her poor paws are unhappy. Winter is always the worst, I find. Maybe not enough vitamin D for the dogs, just like us? I’m really not sure. Hope your vet has some insight for you and your puppy’s paws feel better soon!

  10. My bull terrier has hyper keratosis of all 4 paws. Really bad case. He had hard hornlike growths and barely could walk. We took him to a dermatology specialist. She gave him anesthesia and trimmed all 4 paws. They were like a puppy’s paws.(my dog is 10 yrs old). This was done in December 2016. She told me to do foot soaks with 1/2 strength food quality propylene glycol daily, salicylate spray daily, bio balm 1 to 2 times daily. I also sometimes use bag balm, and found some salicylate ointment. The hornlike growths are slowly growing back, however all the foot soaks and ointments are keeping them softer. I can actually trim some of them off myself after he has his foot soaks with the propylene glycol. However, he is scheduled to go back for a trim by the dermatologist in March. I think this will keep him walking and prevent his feet from getting out of control.

    • Poor thing! I’m glad you have found a routine to keep it softer. We’re fighting it this year again with both dogs, though nowhere near as bad as previous years. I hope your dog’s derm appointment helps things.

      Can you buy the products locally to you or through your dog’s dermatologist?

  11. She included a container of bio balm on the last visit. I buy the food grade propylene glycol on line, as well as salicylate spray. The other creams I buy in the store, such as CVS, or Target. I forgot to mention I use Kerasol also. I checked the price on line to see if it is cheaper on line, but a lot of times with the shipping it is more money. I think the soaks with the 1/2 strength propylene glycol is the most helpful. The hornlike growths really get soft after only a 5 minute soak. I bought kid socks and hair scrunchies which I use to cover his feet after applying the creams. Works great. If anyone else has some ideas would love to hear them. I got all these ideas and suggested creams and ointments reading stuff on line. The dermatologist agreed with everything when I told her what I was using.

  12. Can you guys tell me where you buy the Power of 3 oil or what this is exactly. My dog has a problem with her nose cracking and peeling. It just looks horrible. She’s been on predisone for months.

  13. Thanks for posting. My boxer had nasal hyperkeratosis which my vet called “old dog nose” and shrugged off. Putting coconut oil on it daily helped and I’ve been doing that for a couple of years, but she was recently diagnosed with hypothyroidism. She’s been on thyroid meds for about a month and her nose is like a puppy’s again. I’m not suggested that all hyperkeratosis is thyroid related, but it’s certainly worth checking out.

    • Thank you for your suggestion!

      Oddly, both of our dogs have been tested for thyroid in the past 2 years for different reasons. (Junior twice, before being diagnosed with pancreatitis and to diagnose some seasonal hair loss, and Casey for sudden weight gain this past spring that led to a torn ACL — sometimes I think our dogs just do stuff because they want to visit the vet.) Junior tested low-normal and Casey was normal somehow. She has since been eating weight management food.

      It is definitely a possibility for some though. Hopefully someone looking for answers comes across your comment here to look into thyroid testing for their doggy. I think it’s a good test to do anyway if you can afford it.

  14. Hello!
    Just came across your post and was wondering if anyone could tell me where to find the “Power of 3 E’s” supplement? I cant seem to find it anywhere…Amazon included.

    Thank you!

  15. Hello!
    I’m just wondering if you (or anyone, for that matter!) have any further updates regarding the use and effectiveness of the Bio Balm on your pup’s paws? I think your last update regarding the state of their paws was that the feathers had returned, but weren’t as bad as before…did you begin applying Bio Balm again and if so, did you notice improvement? I’ve frustratingly had a hard time getting ahold of any, but if it still seems to be noticeably helping and working for you guys and others, then I’ll absolutley be continuing the hunt! Also, do you still find it to be worse in the winter than in the warmer months? In our case, my boy’s pads have seemingly been worse in the summer when it’s extremely dry and hot out, but I’ve noticed that there hasn’t been much of a change between seasons this year. The feathers did soften when it was wet out this fall, but have stiffened back up again. It could just be because he’s getting older (he turned 13 last month), as his food and environment haven’t changed. I’ve also come to notice that he seems to limp and have the most sensitivity when we’re walking down a hill (on hard surfaces). I’m attributing that to be due to all his weight shifting to his toe tips where his feathers are the worst. It doesn’t help that he’s an English Chocolate Lab with the true short legs and a large, longer body, complete with a super-duper deep chest :)! He’s an absolutely amazing and beautiful boy, but his stature unfortunately means there’s lots of force being pushed forward onto his poor little toes…:(.
    Anyway, any kind of update from anyone would be amazing! Thanks so much!!

    • Hi Tara!

      Funny, I was just talking to my cousin’s wife tonight about this! They have boxer dogs and had similar issues with hyperkeratosis mostly around the edges of the paws. What she tried was Pawtector from Natural Dog Company — she said they used it once a day for about a month and saw great results! You can find it here: I’m going to add this link to my post.
      I still recommend the Bio Balm. With consistency, it helps a lot. Just thought I’d add the Pawtector in case anyone else needed some alternatives!

  16. My adopted 7yo Akita has these paw feathers.
    She is very sensitive of touching her pads.
    Once it a while ,I see her favor her right leg, when walking. I bet this hyperkeratosis is the problem. I’ll have to treat it…

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