Hyperkeratosis is a condition where the skin becomes thicker than usual in certain places. The body may produce extra keratin as a result of inflammation, as a protective response to pressure, or as a result of a genetic condition. Symptoms will always include an area of rough or patchy skin that feels different from the surrounding skin. For dogs and cats it often happens on the foot pads and on the nose. The skin may also crack as it becomes thicker, causing pain and also increases the chance of infection. The presence of hyperkeratosis is often a symptom of an underlying issue such as an irritant, allergy or even an auto-immune disease.
Forms of hyperkeratosis:
- Actinic keratosis - results from too much sun.
- Pressure related hyperkeratosis - occurs as a result of excessive pressure (causing a callouses), inflammation or irritation to the skin. For example, warts may be present on the body or the pads which can cause inflammation.
- Non-pressure related keratosis - is believed to be a congenital condition and seems to occur without any sign of inflammation or pressure.
- Eczema - causes red, itching skin that may appear in patches or as small bumps.
- Scalp psoriasis - causes lots of scratching where it seems like your pet may need flea spray, but only scaly dandruff comes off of the skin.
- Hyperkeratosis also becomes more common as pets age and can also be a symptom in animals with lupus.
What can you do?
For the most common types of hyperkeratosis, help your pet avoid environmental conditions known to contribute to it, these are:
- highly fragranced products,
- allergy triggers which may be in foods,
- products used in the home laden with chemicals that may not agree with your pet, such as certain cleaning supplies
- dry air,
- extremely hot or cold temperatures,
- salt on winter sidewalks can also be torturous for an animal who has sensitive or cracked paws.
Most forms of hyperkeratosis are treatable with preventive measures and or medication. You can help to reduce your pets symptoms by keeping the affected area moisturized with a gentle healing cream formulated for eczema and other skin dermatitis issues such as Pretty Paws for Cats or Pretty Paws for Dogs or our Paw and Nose Balm which is formulated for healing and softening. Both can prevents dry nose and paw cracking. In certain weather conditions your pet may need protective clothing, sunscreen or even little shoes. Removal of any warts present may also help your pet from developing inflamed hyperkeratosis.
When should you should seek medical attention for your pet?
If the hyperkeratosis is causing obvious pain or discomfort to your pet, or an area of the skin appears infected, such as reddened, swollen, or pus-filled, a visit to the vet is likely in order.