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Your dog is your beloved sidekick in life — the Robin to your Batman! If you’re like me, any wound, any negative behavior change, anything unusual that isn’t immediately recognizable as healthy is a concern.
What if your dog’s paws turn yellow and look like they have little growths or tiny hairs sprouting out of them? What does it mean? Is it dangerous?
Do you need to do anything, and if so, what is it?
This article is for you. I’ll help you learn why it’s happening and what to do about it!
Why Are My Dog’s Paws Yellow?
A common cause (other than stepping on wet yellow paint — something we should never put past our furry companions!) is a condition called hyperkeratosis.
What Is Hyperkeratosis?
Hyperkeratosis is a condition where your dog’s body makes too much of a protein called keratin on the pads of your dog’s paws.
In the right amounts, keratin is a good thing. It is the main protein found in the surface parts of animals — from scales to skin and hair to hooves! It makes up your nails and your dog’s nails, and is the primary component of the horns you see on animals like cows. It’s tough and can be quickly regenerated if it gets damaged.
If it does all this good, why is it related to the problem your dog is having?
Because there’s too much. Thats where the “hyper” of “hyperkeratosis” comes in. Let’s take a minute to break down that word:
hyper - too much
kera - keratin
-osis - disease
Hyperkeratosis means “disease where the body makes too much keratin”!
It’s that yellow, hair looking stuff on your dog’s paws.
I can hear you now: “Okay, but why is it happening?”
What Causes Dog Paw Yellowing (Hyperkeratosis)?
There are a few causes for the yellowing of your dog’s paws due to hyperkeratosis.
Short Term or Acute: Environmental
Another example of hyperkeratosis is the formation of callouses on your hands and feet. If your dog is having to rough it on pavement, or their bedding is too rough, or they’re walking on something that’s irritating or toxic to the pads of their feet, then the pads will thicken to help protect themselves. If you’ve recently moved, sprayed a new type of chemical in your yard, or done something else that might change what comes into contact with your dog’s feet, see if it’s something you can change or remove.
Long Term or Chronic: Congenital, Age, or Disease-Related
Long-lasting hyperkeratosis can be due to your dog’s genetics. According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, Irish Terriers and Dogues de Bordeaux are more prone to “familial footpad hyperkeratosis”, which usually shows up on all the pads of your dog’s feet at a young age.
Other causes of long-lasting hyperkeratosis can be your dog’s age. Just as older humans start to have skin and nail problems, older dogs can have roughening and overgrowth of their paw pads.
Certain other diseases can cause thickening of your dog’s pads. If your dog has chronic health problems and you see any thickening of your dog’s paws, loss of hair, or other concerning signs, make sure to tell your vet right away. This is a particular situation where the thickening and overgrowth could be a sign of something more serious.
Is Dog Paw Yellowing the Only Sign of Hyperkeratosis?
Hyperkeratosis can happen on the nose, paws, or skin of a dog, although thankfully it doesn’t usually happen in all the places it can at once. If you see thick, rough overgrowth on your dog’s nose, ears, or skin on other parts of their body, it can also be due to hyperkeratosis.
Signs and Symptoms
Hyperkeratosis can cause yellowing of the paws, but it can lead to more serious concerns. Over keratinized skin (skin with too much keratin in it) becomes dry and brittle, prone to cracking and splitting. It’s similar to how the skin on your hands breaks down when it gets dehydrated in the wintertime.
If the skin is repeatedly broken and can’t heal back well, it it painful and fungi or bacteria can infect it much more easily. This is just as true for your dog’s paws as your skin in the wintertime.
As the condition gets more serious, you should be able to tell. Your dog will likely lick the area and may limp or not want to walk or run because of the discomfort or pain in their feet.
Are Yellow Dog Paws Due to Hyperkeratosis Dangerous?
Unfortunately, they can be! Mild hyperkeratosis can cause discomfort but may not be particularly dangerous to your dog. If it’s due to some of the short-term causes mentioned above and those causes are removed, it should correct on its own or with some mild moisturizer applied to the pads of your dog’s feet.
If the hyperkeratosis is severe and has led to thick yellow growth that is cracked and bleeding, those cracks represent big entrances with signs saying “Come Right In!” for bacteria and fungi. They need to be treated thoroughly to help your dog get their healthy feet back.
How Is Hyperkeratosis Diagnosed?
The first step to diagnosis is you, the human, recognizing that your dog has the issue. Only a veterinarian is qualified to make a sure diagnosis, however, and if the condition is serious (cracking, bleeding, or very thick growth that does not respond to moisturizer therapy well), you need to take the dog in for a visit. If you aren’t sure, call your vet. There’s never a bad time to get a vet involved in the diagnosis and treatment of your pet’s health concerns!
How Are Yellow Dog Paws (Hyperkeratosis) Treated?
If the hyperkeratosis is mild, meaning that there is no splitting of the skin and no sores, and the thickening of the paws is mild, you can try to use a moisturizing balm to help heal the area. A soothing balm like the one made by Relievet available is a perfect choice to help keep the skin flexible, moist, and healthy. It also helps reduce irritation and pain with several natural ingredients.
If the hyperkeratosis is more severe, meaning that there is splitting of the skin, sores, or visible thickening that is making your dog uncomfortable, you need to see a vet. They will remove the crust mechanically, meaning they will cut or abrade it off using a tool like a Dremel. This should be done by a professional because a mistake could seriously injure your dog.
After removing the crust, the vet will likely prescribe medicated ointments or creams that will not only moisturize and soften the area, they will help break down keratin so the thick, unhealthy tissue can be replaced with healthy tissue over time. They will also likely advise you to cover your dog’s feet with booties or socks to prevent them from licking or worrying at the area, which can lead to injury, lack of healing, or infection.
Does CBD Work For Dogs With Yellow Paws (Hyperkeratosis)?
It can! CBD has anti-inflammatory and anti-itch properties. Combined with a moisturizer like shea butter or fractionated coconut oil to help it get deep into your dog’s skin, it can help decrease discomfort, pain, and itching. At the same time, the moisturizer will help restore and maintain your pet’s healthy skin.
We don’t recommend using human products on your dog’s skin without consulting your vet or a pharmacist. Many human products contain things that are okay in humans, but can irritate or slow healing in your dog. If you’re looking to harness the anti-itch, anti-inflammatory properties of CBD for your pet, you can do so with either oil by mouth, using a CBD balm, or both!
What CBD Is Best for My Dog’s Yellow Paws (Hyperkeratosis)?
When your vet tells you that you need a moisturizer to help your dog get better or stay better after they’ve treated your dog’s severe hyperkeratosis, we recommend our balm. It’s specifically formulated for dog paws, using only natural ingredients that are known to not harm or irritate their sensitive skin.
The balm is the most direct, applicable product to hyperkeratosis. However, there are some studies showing that oral CBD can help with anxiety and itching. If your dog’s hyperkeratosis has them upset either because of having to go to the vet, because their paws hurt, or because they hate the booties the vet makes them wear so they can’t pick at their paws, oral CBD may be a good choice.
We offer both oils, treats, and calming Zen chews. All of these are good choices to help your pooch stay calm and let them rest up while their paws heal — or if your dog just needs help with being calm for any reason!
What Can I Expect After My Dog’s Hyperkeratosis Is Treated?
Depending on the cause, it may go away and not come back even without continued treatment. If it’s due to something that you can’t make go away, like genetics, disease, or having to walk on pavement because you moved into a city, follow your vet’s recommendations.
If one of those recommendations is to use a good moisturizer, find one that works well for you and your dog and use it consistently.
You should expect the condition to get better and stay better as long as you follow your vet’s recommendations. If it doesn’t, be sure to give your vet a call.
Dog paws yellowing is commonly due to hyperkeratosis, a disease caused by the dog’s skin producing too much keratin. Instead of being moist and supple, it gets hard and can crack and split, leading to infection. This can happen due to genetics, age, or diseases. Mild cases can be treated using moisturizers, but if they don’t get better, another disease is suspected, or the case is serious (causing discomfort and pain or with splitting and open wounds), a vet visit is needed. A vet can treat hyperkeratosis by cutting or grinding away the thickened tissue and prescribing medicated ointments to help the treatment work. Treating the paws so the thickening is less likely to happen again can be done with a quality balm, and CBD in the balm or taken by mouth may help with calming the dog, reducing inflammation, and reducing the uncomfortable itch caused by hyperkeratosis.