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My Dog Has Hard Paw Pads…What Does This Mean?

My Dog Has Hard Paw Pads…What Does This Mean?

Dogs love running, jumping, and bouncing around, whether they are indoors, at the park, or playing in their own backyards.  All of this movement causes a lot of pressure on their feet, so thankfully, dogs form calluses in order to give their paws added protection.  A dog’s normal footpad is thick and hard, yet springy.  When these paw pads become extra firm, are painful to the touch, or have deep cracks, there may be an underlying medical condition that needs attention, commonly known as Hard Pad Disease or Canine Distemper.


Hard Pad Disease

My Dog Has Hard Paw Pads...What Does This Mean?Canine Distemper is also known as “Hard Pad Disease”, due to the hardening of the pads of an animal’s feet. Distemper can cause the pads to become abnormally enlarged or thickened.  In addition to the paw pads, a dog’s nose can harden and become very stiff to the touch as well.  These symptoms are both signs that the virus is attacking the skin of the nose and feet, and the hardening of the skin is the body’s response to the virus.  Hard pads will typically appear about 15 days after the first symptoms of Distemper are shown.  Look for a firm consistency at the center of the pad, along with excess keratin tissue, fissures, and erosion that appear more defined at the edges of the footpad.  Hard Pad Disease is also usually associated with the appearance of neurological signs, another symptom of the later stages of Canine Distemper.


Common Symptoms of Distemper

  • Fever
  • Anorexia
  • Nose and Eye Secretions
  • Cough
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Seizures
  • Paralysis



Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for Distemper (Hard Pad Disease), however, you can treat the symptoms by taking your dog into the vet. Veterinarians can treat the symptoms of Distemper with the use of IV fluids for dehydration, medication to help nausea and a loss of appetite, and other advanced therapies such as blood and plasma transfusions.  To treat the hard paw pads specifically, a veterinarian may recommend an anti-hard pad serum. Additionally, most veterinarians will recommend that a dog with Canine Distemper should be hospitalized and separated from other dogs to prevent the spread of infection.


Other Paw Pad Conditions

Not all hard paw pads point to Canine Distemper.  There are several other diseases and conditions that can cause the thickening of the calluses, so take your pup to the vet to make sure you get a proper diagnosis.

1. Nasodigital Hyperkaratosis– this illness affects the tough, outer covering of the footpads and the nose in dogs.  The edges and coverings become enlarged and grow excessively.  This disease cannot be cured, however, it can be treated with medication and your veterinarian can trim the excess growth as needed.

2. Pemphigus– this is an auto-immune disease of the skin that attacks the paw-pads skin cells.  The pads can develop pus-filled sores that look like blisters, and when they burst, they form a crust on the paw pad.  Your veterinarian can prescribe a medication to suppress the immune system to allow the paw pad to heal.

3. Allergies and Internal Illnesses– allergies and internal illnesses can cause a dog’s paws to crack.  A pup’s body will manifest allergies through itchy feet.  This can cause your dog to chew or gnaw at his or her paws.  Allergies can be diagnosed by a veterinarian who can prescribe medications to control the conditions and relieve the symptoms.


How To Care For Your Dog’s Paws

1. Inspect your dog’s paws on a weekly basis.  Look for cracked or hardened pads, burrs, and other objects that may be between your dog’s toes.

2. Treat callused pads. If you find the pads to be hardened, are painful to the touch, or have deep cracks, take your pup to the veterinarian. This could be a sign of Distemper, and your dog’s feet may need medical attention and medication to help them heal.

3. Trim your dog’s nails.My Dog Has Hard Paw Pads...What Does This Mean? Long, overgrown nails can be extremely uncomfortable and cause the paw joints to twist to the side.  If the nails remain overgrown for a long period of time, abnormalities may develop in the dog’s gait (the way a dog walks) and in other parts of the body. It is time to trim your dog’s nails if you can hear them clicking or scratching the floor when he or she walks, or if the nails are curled or turned to the side.

4. Make sure your dog gets enough zinc.  A zinc deficiency can cause a dog to have very thick paw pads that can crack and become very dry.  Make sure your dog is getting a quality diet with all of the essential vitamins and minerals.

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