Because dogs don’t [typically] wear shoes, their footpads are equipped with extra thick skin; nature’s equivalent of shoes, really. The outer layer that looks like little tightly-packed cones is tough to protect the feet when walking on rough surfaces.
Normally, everything the body does is well regulated, so everything is where it belongs and functions the way it was meant to. When the regulation breaks down, things can go wild–and end up quite wild-looking. With hyperkeratosis, it looks as if the little cones start growing out of control. It resembles hair or, to me, more like something that would grow at the bottom of the ocean.
|You can see why I’m thinking coral reef rather than hair|
It doesn’t always look this bad, it can present just as hardening or crusting of the pads.
The medical term is hyperkeratosis.
Now, that it has a name, is your veterinarian done? Should they be?
Some breeds have genetic predisposition to this type of problem. A genetic component can be suspect particularly when it starts at around a year of age.
In cases where only one (or some) feet are affected, it might signal that your dog isn’t walking properly on that leg–not bearing full weight–and keratin that would naturally wear off does not. That should bring your attention to musculoskeletal issues.
Similar changes can be caused by the following:
The problem could be infectious in origin. Some strains of the distemper virus can cause hyperkeratosis.
A parasite transferred by sandflies, Leishmania, can have hyperkeratosis as the most prominent symptom.
The problem can be auto-immune in origin. Zinc deficiency can be one of the causes. In older dogs, it can even be a sign of chronic liver disease or a pancreatic tumor.
I am not trying to scare you.
You can best solve a problem when you target what is truly behind it. And as much as you might need to treat directly if you can nail down the cause you have a better chance of fixing the problem rather than managing it.