Updated 04-13-2014 : Apparently, there are an awful lot of people out there with dogs who have mutant hairy feet, because I get a ton of email about this blog post. For those of you who have asked – no, you do not have to use Bag Balm or Herbacin on your dog’s feet. Any good, protective emollient will do – vaseline, cocoa butter, Udder Cream (ask at your local farm supply store) or the product of your choice.
Sean and I spent yesterday in one of our favorite bonding experiences — dremeling dog nails. This inevitably leads to him making bitter comments about how he never wanted children, while I tell him to shut up or I’ll post photos on the blog of him holding Penelope while she’s dressed in a tutu and a collar with daisies on it.
This works quite well, because Sean remains convinced that clothing on dogs is the last step in a slippery slope that leads to you living in a trailer with 100 cats and a tinfoil hat on your head. Also, I’ve enjoyed learning that, among all the interesting uses one can have for a blog, blackmailing your spouse sits right up there near the top of the list (I even invented a word for it – blogmailing, as in “Do that again, and I’m going to write about it on my blog”).
Midway through grinding Journey’s nails, Sean commented on the pads of her feet.
“Have they always been this, I don’t know, big?”
I looked more closely, and noted that they almost looked hairy. He agreed, and I ran to grab a flashlight for a closer look. Sure enough, the pads of Journey’s feet, when stroked in the opposite direction, looked like they were made of millions of tiny, bristly, orange hairs.
“The hell?” was Sean’s succinct summation of the situation, while I started humming Journey’s theme song, which goes roughly like this -
‘She’s Journey! The mutant Manatee dog!
Raised near a nuclear plant,
She’s got skin that glows
and a crusty nose..
Hair that sheds,
all over your bed…
Stinky butt stank,
and a mouth so rank….
She’s Journey! The mutant Manatee dog!’
Here’s a photo of Journey’s left pad, which should give you an idea of what I mean by ‘hairy’ .
By comparison, here’s Delilah’s paw -
I went on line and asked a few other French Bulldog breeders if they had ever seen anything like it. Some had, and mentioned that dremeling the ‘hairy’ areas seemed to help. Barb mentioned that she’d seen before in dogs she’d groomed, and that she thought it was a kind of fungus. I then did some digging on google, and found this –
nasodigital hyperkeratosis – an ailment affecting either the nose or foot pads (or both) of older dogs. In hyperkeratosis, keratin – the tough, fibrous outer covering of foot pads – grows excessively. Often, the hard, cracked pads appear to have “keratin feathers” around their edges. A vet can diagnose this ailment by analyzing a section of pad tissue. Although hyperkeratosis can’t be cured, it can be controlled. The veterinarian can carefully trim excessive keratin and instruct the owner on techniques to hydrate the pads, retarding excessive keratin growth. One such technique is to soak the pads each day in a 50 percent propylene-glycol solution over a period of several days.
We decided that, since it can’t be cured, and since I’m pretty comfortable treating minor stuff like this myself, that we’d break out the dremel and see if it worked. We carefully and slowly worked against the grain of the raised areas, and ground off as much of the ‘hairs’ as we could, without hurting Journey or touching the flat pads of her feet. We then soaked her feet in a mild sanitizer solution, and applied a coating of Herbacin Hand Balm (I wanted to use Bag Balm, but I seem to have run out. Much like the father in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” and his belief that Windex cures everything, I firmly believe that Bag Balm is a substance of near magical properties, useful on everything from dog noses to people feet. Plus, one tin lasts for like two decades).
The changes were immediate. Here’s Journey’s same pad, after treatment -
We’ll have to keep treating her daily, to see if the changes are lasting, but hopefully we’ll be able to control it. I feel bad, because apparently if we’d been monitoring her pads better, we could have kept it from getting to this stage. I decided to give all the dogs feet a good cleaning with sanitizer, and to apply some Bag Balm to the bottoms, just on the theory that it can’t hurt, and might help prevent any further instances of Hairy Foot Syndrome (a term I personally prefer to nasodigital hyperkeratosis).
We’ve taken to refering to Journey as our ‘walking science project’, since she’s the dog that just keeps on giving when it comes to learning about weird Frenchie medical conditions. Good thing we love her so much, and that she’s such an utter sweetheart of a dog.