Hairy dog paw pads caused by nasodigital hyperkeratosis

Mutant Hairy Dog Feet

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 –

Normal French Bulldog paw pad

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 –

Journey's paw 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.

85 replies
  1. Caveat
    Caveat says:

    Thanks for the mention, much appreciated. I couldn’t see the banners, is there a link to where they reside?

    Blackmail – another use for blogs – brilliant!

    I haven’t seen the pad problem you depict. My smooth Griff does get hairy feet though. I mean real hair that spreads over his pads due to not getting walked much in the winter (cold and salt are a bad combo, so it’s mostly the backyard).

    I plan to try a dremel, never have so I’m nervous about it but with little guys, I think it might be better.

    • frogdogz
      frogdogz says:

      I couldn’t see the banners, is there a link to where they reside?

      It’s that stupid freakin’ Picasa. Every time I decide to give them another chance, something screwy happens. I’ll correct the image links.

      Look, I invented a new word —

      Blogmail – blackmailing someone by threatening to post incriminating details on your blog.

  2. Jenniferj
    Jenniferj says:

    We’ve had hairy feet! When they were dry, the dremel worked well. If they were too “squishy” for the dremel, I clipped off the excess with a nail clipper.

    Bag Balm cures everything, I thought that was common knowledge! 🙂

    As for Goodwin et al, I am adopting Caveat’s Hsux. I like it and it is far more accurate. I read his whole letter on YesBiscuit. What a lying ass. So if my 8 week old puppies snarl and chew on each other, they need putting down? Well thank God HSUS will save us all, next time any perfectly normal litter I ever observe is playing hard, I’ll just run to the phone and make those euthanasia appointments!

    And what’s with the “we had to buy crates to separate puppies” crap? Did Hsux actually spend their own money? Show me an effing receipt and then I’ll buy that.

  3. Katie
    Katie says:

    Kerasolv gel is a veterinary product that can help the hairy foot issue too. The Cocker we had when I was a kid had it, and on his nose as well, which was really gross.

    Bag balm is great stuff.

  4. Susan
    Susan says:

    I missed the part about Bag Balm curing everything. My father thinks that Milk of Magnesia cures everything. When I was 13 and had (undiagnosed)impetigo on my face, he tried to make me take Milk of Magnesia.

  5. Dawn
    Dawn says:

    I had that on one of my danes feet as well. Thought it was because they were so heavy. I guess it isn’t. Pretty much did the same thing you did and it worked pretty good. I too love bag balm.

  6. Cleo
    Cleo says:

    Many of my older Bull Terriers get that foot thing,which I just called overgrown pads, and I dremel them off when I see them. Usually they’re pretty hard, but sometimes the edges will look hairy, especially if the feet are damp. They REALLY stink like old dog feet when you grind them, don’t they?

  7. Chantal
    Chantal says:

    Thanks for posting this! My Beagle had this and they actually had surgery on him to remove and it grew back. Unfortunately the vet didn’t know what it was and your picture is exactly what our Beagle has – he limps from time to time after playing hard, etc. but glad to know that you can dremel them off…so I guess from reading the posts it is about maintenance.

    Good to know! Thank you!

  8. Natalie
    Natalie says:

    I have a 9 year old golden retriever and your post helped immensely. She has just recently got these “hairy feet” as you call them.
    I was just wondering, how is this treatment working for you a few months later? I have clipped the excess “hairs” back, but they seem to grow back to the same size about a week and a half later. I haven’t tried the stuff you said to put on there so if I get a confirmation that its working, I’ll try that bit next.


  9. Sarah
    Sarah says:

    Hi I just found your site because my bulldog has the same symptoms.. I was just wondering how the dremeling is working and how your dog is doing now? I would appreciate any feedback that you have.

  10. frogdogz
    frogdogz says:

    Hi Sarah —

    You have to keep up the dremeling. It’s not a one time thing. As long as you keep at it, your dog’s feet should be more comfortable.

  11. Sara R.
    Sara R. says:

    Thank for the pictures. I am taking my dog Hannibal (Great Pyrenees) to the vet on Wednesday to get a clinical diagnosis. I have done some research and this condition can be related to low zinc levels as well as thyroid issues. I have included a link to University of Georgia’s School of Vet. Med. for others.'ll keep

    Also a picture of what impact it may have on the puppy’s nose. SAMS/derm/derm1810.jpg

    I’ll keep you posted.

    Sara R. & Hannibal

  12. Heather
    Heather says:

    I think that my dog has this too. And I was wandering if it could happen to a dog that is not a year old. She is a 9 month old husky and I noticed it about two months ago and the Vet does not know what it is and wants to do a bio on it. Then to cut the hard pieces off almost all of her paws. And do we know why this happens? Thanks


  13. Ann
    Ann says:

    Can you tell me what grade of sandpaper you use on the dremel? My dog just developed the same thing and her pads are cracked and painful. I bag balmed and wrapped them in bandaids for now but I want a better solution – also what sanitizer do you use to soak? Thank you !!

  14. Emily & LilyDog
    Emily & LilyDog says:

    THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for posting a close-up picture AND identifying what it is…

    I was just clipping my dogs nails, and I noticed some strange stuff on her paws, which kind of looked like a sea anemone. So, naturally, I just freaked out, and spent the past 30 minutes trying to find something similar online.

    After finding your lil’ blog post about “Mutant Hairy Dog Feet,” I feel less freaked out now, but am still calling the vet on Monday.

    How are your dog’s mutant feet doing?

    Thanks again! 🙂

  15. thiago
    thiago says:

    wow, i too didn’t know what the hairy bristle stuff was on my french bulldogs nose and paws, but this thread really helped. Can i use bag balm without dremeling. i don’t have a dremel where can i get one?

  16. Jenny
    Jenny says:

    Thank you so much for posting this! My doggie had this and we actually had surgery scheduled on him to remove it and then I found the hint about the dremel. I have canceled the surgery now. Good to know! Thank you!

  17. Kari
    Kari says:

    I remember reading this blog last year, so last week when I was trimming my girls’ nails and I noticed nearly the same thing, I knew right where to go! The difference is, my girls are getting it on their carpal pads and not on the metacarpal pads. I’ve been dremeling them off but I couldn’t remember what the balm was called.. headed to amazon to get it right now, thanks!
    .-= Kari´s last blog ..New Pages =-.

  18. Maria
    Maria says:

    Thanks so much. Your info was much needed. We have the same problem with our lil 11 month old mini schnauzer. We had never heard of this before, so had no clue to what was wrong with his pads. Look forward to him having his paws in better shape.

  19. Susan K.
    Susan K. says:

    Thank God I found this blog. If you thought the Frenchy paw looked bad you should see my Bassett’s! Doing the dremel thing today. Thanks ever so much.

  20. Eric
    Eric says:

    My elderly golden retriever had this really bad. I cut a lot of the hard ones of (I call them stalagtites) with her doggie nail clippers. I used scissors on the softer furrier ones. They do grow back, but it seemed slow.

    Now I’m seeing them on one of my beagles pads, in the very early stages. I wonder if this could be contagious or if it’s just a coincidence. I just got a new golden puppy and would hate for it to be contagious.

  21. Nikki H
    Nikki H says:

    I was brushing out my 13-year-old Basset today & just noticed the hairy paws! She has it on all but one paw. It’s odd because I trim her nails monthly & didn’t notice this at all last month. My Pug’s paw pads are as smooth as can be, thank goodness. Unfortunately, I am taking my poor old Basset, Daisy, to the vet tomorrow to be put down. She has been having accidents more & more frequently, even urinating on herself when she is sleeping & she has arthritis so bad that she can barely walk. I have to wonder if the hairy paw pads are a symptom of her declining health. Thanks for the advice!

  22. julia
    julia says:

    my friend has a terrier with this problem but he doesn`t want his feet touched at all, there are deep cracks on some of his toes underneath it started when he was about 1 tear old.

  23. Sara R.
    Sara R. says:

    Just an update. After finding a holistic vet, changing diet, changing to holistic meds, etc our naso-digital hyperkeritosis (forgive my spelling) is finally clearing up and it is beginning to diminish on the feet too. Can’t thank you enough for posting your pics.

    Sara and Hannibal the Great Pyr!

  24. Kate D.
    Kate D. says:

    Thank you so much for having a pic up of what the paw looked like. I’ve been trying to figure out what it was that my English Bulldog had on her poor little paw pads, but was hesitant to start treatment til I was sure what it was. I also just happen to keep Bag Balm on hand all the time anyhow so that makes it even easier!

  25. Roberta
    Roberta says:

    One of my dogs (Irish wolfhound) had a very bad case of nasodigital
    hyperkeratosis that lasted for three years starting when she was
    a puppy. The leather of her pads partly peeled right off, causing
    her to limp on the affected feet and throwing her gait off at a
    critical stage in her growth. Sometimes, in addition to those
    “hairy” spots, her feet grew wart-like protrusions that could be
    cut off as they were really dead skin. The condition which was
    very severe at six months old was finally managed with proplyene
    glycol, diluted half and half with water, in which her feet were
    soaked every day. Also, she wore socks to protect the affected
    feet, meaning she had one-sock, two-socks, three-socks, and four-socks days. Once the proplyene glycol took effect (after about
    two weeks) and the condition became less severe, she was able
    to run and walk normally, but her feet didn’t totally heal until
    she was three years old.

  26. Serena
    Serena says:

    Thank goodness I found these blogs! My Boston Terrier has these growths on her nose and everything I’ve been reading suggest serious life threatening diseases! Although her nose has additional symptoms, it began with this fungus looking growth. Research continues, now with a little more hope! Thank you for sharing!

  27. Karen
    Karen says:

    Thanks for the picture! I live in the desert and at first thought it was a big chunk of cactus in my dogs paw, but because it was black I wasn’t sure and hesitated to try to pull them out (like I do with cactus). When i saw your picture I was amazed. My dog has the same thing! Poor thing is limping so badly. He is an 11 year old scottie. I don’t have a dremel, but will try cutting those ugly things off and then use bag balm. Is it just old age that causes it or are there other causes?

  28. Kerry
    Kerry says:

    Thank you so much for posting this. I searched for over 30 min. on the web trying to identify these growths. I just found them on one of my 13 1/2 year old golden retriever’s paw pads. She has been in pretty good health all her life until the past few months. She came down with geriatric vestibular which is an inner ear disease causing vertigo. Thyroid issues was one of the concerns the vet identified that may have led to this and now I have read on this blog that someone else identified a possible relationship between thyroid and these foot growths. We are going to try the treatment suggested on this blog.

  29. Marlene
    Marlene says:

    Could you tell me what tool to use on the dremel? Thank you so much for sharing this information. Just noticed this same thing on my old english bulldog.


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  1. […] looked it up and (thankfully) this is actually a thing. It’s called nasodigital hyperkeratosis. As I’ve discovered it happens when keratin […]

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