Canine Keratosis

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Canine keratosis, also known as keratinization disorder, refers to overproduction of a protein found in skin, nails and hair. Different types of keratosis affects dogs, many of which are hard to treat. While keratosis isn't life-threatening or generally painful, it can make your dog uncomfortable and extremely unsightly. Some types of keratosis require a lifelong commitment from you to keep your dog as symptom-free as possible.

Keratinization Disorder

Keratinization disorder, also known as primary seborrhea, occurs when the dog's body produces excess keratin and sebum. Symptoms include scaly, dry skin; chronic ear infections; hair loss and foul odor. Affected dogs look downright greasy. The disease appears in young dogs, with the cocker spaniel, West Highland white terrier, Labrador retriever, Doberman pinscher, English springer spaniel and basset hound being particularly vulnerable. Keratinization disorder is treatable but not curable. Your vet will help you set up a management program for your dog, consisting of medicated shampoos, dietary supplements and topical and oral medications.



Dogs can develop acne, although canine zits aren't quite the same as the human type. According to DVM 360, canine acne results from abnormal follicular keratinization, causing infection and pimple formation. Hairless and short-coated breeds are the most prone to suffering from canine acne, although it's a good bet it doesn't bother them as much as it does human teenagers. Schnauzers might develop their own kind of canine acne, known as schnauzer comedo syndrome. Your vet might prescribe medications or shampoos to treat your dog's acne. In severe cases, she might prescribe oral and topical antibiotics. Don't use human acne products on Fido.


Nasal Hyperkeratosis

Older dogs might develop nasal hyperkeratosis, a nose condition resulting when dead skin stops sloughing off. The nose of an affected dog appears thickened, because of the accumulation of horn-like dead tissue. Getting rid of this nasty-looking excess skin isn't easy. Your vet might prescribe topical medications containing salicylic acid, or another acne medication, tretinoin. She also might suggest supplementing your dog's diet with vitamin A, as it aids in skin normalization. Labrador retrievers particularly are prone to nasal hyperkeratosis.


Footpad Hyperkeratosis

Footpad hyperkeratosis, also known as hard pad disease or digital hyperkeratosis, occurs when skin on the paw pad becomes hard because of excess keratin. Although the footpad looks unsightly and feels rough, it doesn't appear to harm the dog and lameness shouldn't result. However, fissures can develop in the foot, with possible infection following. Treatment is similar to that of nasal hyperkeratosis, along with soaking the footpads. Your vet might file off some of the excess skin. Breeds prone to this disorder include the Labrador and golden retriever, Kerry blue terrier, Irish terrier and Dogue de Bordeaux.


By Jane Meggitt

DVM 360: Localized Keratinization Syndromes (Proceedings)
Animal Dermatology Clinic of British Columbia: Paw and Nail Disorders
McKeever Dermatology Clinics: Nasal and Digital Hyperkeratosis
petMD: Inflammatory Skin Disease in Dogs
Vetstream: Skin -- Keratinization disorders
University of Prince Edward Island: What is Seborrhea?

About the Author
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.