Edit: I posted this less than 12 hours ago and I already have 6 e-mails with photos in my inbox, mostly of the paws of senior dogs. Apparently Hairy Paw isn’t as rare as implied by the vet, but none of us are recognizing it as a cause for lameness in older or lame (for other reasons) dogs. Check your dog’s feet now and see if he or she could be hurting! If you find any new information on this subject, please share!
From the people who brought you Fart Walks, intended to force DASH! to flatulate
and Sunday Evening Butt Shaves to keep Gertie’s nether regions aired out
Something about Sarah overheating in 1/2 hour in less than 80 degrees last weekend kept niggling at the back of my mind, so, you guessed it, to the vet we went.
Turns out, Sarah has Hairy Paws, formally known as Nasodigital Hyperkaratosis. With this condition, the cells on (in Sarah’s case) the paw pads overgrow, causing the appearance of hair growing on the pads.
Imagine walking barefoot on upright needles. That is the effect of Hairy Paw on the sufferer.
Sarah’s evening walks with Gertie are maybe 15 minutes at most and we don’t move very fast. Sunday’s walk was faster and more importantly out on the desert for the first time in months so Sarah, like the others, hit the ground running. It wasn’t that Sarah overheated due to the temperatures, it was because her feet hurt and the stress caused her to overheat. When all 4 feet hurt, it’s hard to limp and when you don’t want to be left behind, you walk despite the pain.
The vet said he had only seen about 4 cases of Nasodigital Hyperkaratosis in his 20 years of practice, so rare he said it was, he couldn’t even remember the name of the condition. He said all we could to was cut the effected parts off the pads with scissors and that it would be necessary for the rest of her life, Hairy Paw being incurable.
I guess the condition has to be rare because Sarah was at a different vet in July because her wobblyness and pain appeared to be increasing. Her feet never came up as a cause and instead we left with a script for Adaquan.
As I always do when I leave a vet with a new diagnosis, I immediately called my hero and guru, Nora, to get her input. If there is a disease, condition or disability out there, Nora has deliberately adopted a dog because of it. As expected, she knew the medical term and was able to give me a brief primer on the subject.
I then got home and got on the Net looking for more information. After I sifted out the snake oils and other scary treatments, and using prior knowledge about certain unrelated biochemistry subjects and personal experiences, and from testing methods on myself, I came up with this Phase 1 Trial of an at home Hairy Paw treatment/maintenance pawdicure:
Note: I had already gotten about as much tissue off with scissors as I could possibly get over 2 prior sessions. Sarah’s feet were washed with a solution of Apple Cider Vinegar and water before cutting the tissue. This makes it SO much easier! What I’m doing now is “maintenance”.
Step 1: Remove a few layers of excess tissue with a Ped Egg ($14 from Bed, Bath & Beyond).
A few people blogged or reported that a dremel works well for this. I tested the dremel on my rough heels and can honestly say NEVER USE A DREMEL ON YOUR DOG’S PADS! It hurts! (Which is probably why the same people reported they needed someone to help hold the dog still.) I took a chance with the Peg Egg and got lucky that it actually worked. Note the buffed margin along Sarah’s heel (photo above). Sarah never flinched.
The instructions that came with the Ped Egg and the reviews I found on the Internet say never use it on wet skin. Heed the warning! I tried using it on a towel dried arm and it burned. Absolutely, completely dry paws only!
Step 2: Foot soaked and cleaned with diluted Apple Cider Vinegar
Rather than make Sarah stand in the tub or a bucket, I made a 50/50 solution of Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) and water, heated it, then used it as a compress. Other people say they soak, standing, in a diluted solution of Propylene Glycol. More about Propylene Glycol later.
The reason I chose ACV is that it removes oily build up from the skin without altering the pH or drying it out. You don’t realize just how gritty and oily a dog’s paw is until you try to scissor cut it! I tried ACV on a hunch and just got lucky it worked.
After holding the warm compress on the foot for a few minutes, I washed the whole pad with the same solution, dipping the cloth several times. All the left over skin scrapings from the Ped Egg came off very easily.
Step 3: After drying the foot, massage vegetable glycerin in and around the pad.
I mentioned Propylene Glycol earlier. This chemical is used as a humuctant, meaning it attracts moisture. Other people swear by soaking in it. This is why I disagree with using it:
Propylene Glycol is a petroleum product, a manufactured chemical. Vegetable glycerin, also a humuctant, is the end product of distilling vegetable oils. Both are used interchangeably. Need I say more? Propylene Glycol is cheaper than vegetable glyerin, probably why it’s more popular.
As far as soaking in a humuctant, a little something I learned from working with horses with bad feet: You can’t get any ‘moister’ than pure water. Using a humuctant while soaking or hosing a horse’s feet is pointless. It gets used after. Using that same the logic, I apply the humuctant to Sarah’s feet last. A bonus with vegetable glycerin is that it is absorbed quickly and there is no slippery residue that would make walking on laminate floors difficult.
The one problem I may encounter is our climate. In extremely how humidities, there is little moisture to absorb from the atmosphere, so the vegetable glycerin may not work as well here as in a more temperate clime. I may have to switch to an oil but I’ll have to experiment to find one that absorbs fast so Sare Bear isn’t left sliding on the floors.
1 foot done, 3 more to go! How’re you doing Sarah?
The whole process took about 1/2 hour.
I’m going to do this every week, or until I’m down to 100% unadulterated pad, and then watch the paws to see how often it needs to be done.
I’m also going to try papaya “masks” to see if it helps. Fun Fact: The excess tissue is Keratin, which is a protein. The predominant amino acid in Keratin is Cysteine. The protein digesting enzyme in Papaya, Papain, specifically digests Cysteine. Theoretically, the use of papaya as a preemptive strike should break down the excess Keratin before it becomes a problem. I’ll let you know if the theory holds true. I’ve used papaya myself many times over the years without discomfort so I feel safe using it on Sarah.
This is all still new to me and, therefore subject to change without notice if I learn something new or something I’m already doing proves not to work. So far at least, all systems appear to be Go.
And with that, I leave you with a photo of Sarah, long after her Pawdicure was finished, just to show you the trauma she suffered.