Dogs are very energetic animals. Dogs walk, run and jump – a lot. Dogs put a lot of miles on their four feet. It’s a good thing a dog’s paws are unlike ordinary skin. If dogs would need to change the pads of their paws like humans change the worn out tires of their cars, dogs would accumulate a big pile of worn out paw pads throughout their lifetime. A dog’s paw pads are naturally thick, hard and springy. Because the pads get a lot of pressure when the dog runs and jumps, calluses are formed to give the paws additional protection. Dogs that walk and run on hard concrete expectedly would have thicker calluses than inside dogs that walk on carpeted floors. Just as with humans that get thicker skin with age, the skin and the paw pads of dog will get thicker as they age. Too much callus or unevenly formed callus can impair the gait of the dog as instead of acting as shock absorber, the pads would be extremely painful.
In some instances though, the hard pad results from a medical condition. Hard pad is one of the symptoms of canine distemper. Contrary to the common notion, and contrary to the name, hard pad disease is not really a separate disease from canine distemper. Canine distemper is a very serious canine disease oftentimes resulting to the death of the pet. Caused by a virus that attacks the tissues in the dog’s body, the disease will first appear as a very serious case of pneumonia. At the onset of the viral attack affected dogs would have runny nose and watery eyes. After a few days the dog would have thick yellowish discharge. This will be followed by fever and severe coughing. Gastrointestinal concerns would have the dog vomiting and frequently passing soft stool. The dog would turn away from food. Dogs showing these symptoms are in the first stage of distemper. As mentioned, distemper is a fatal disease. A lot of affected dogs would expire a few days after manifesting these clinical signs. Most affected are ill-kept and poorly nourished dogs. Those that managed to survive will enter the second stage of the disease.
Along with the vomiting and diarrhea, the dog’s nose and paws will harden and become extremely stiff to the touch. This is a sign that the virus is already attacking the skin of the nose and the feet so that the nose will become thick and horny and the pads of the paws will thicken and harden. Caused by a different strain of canine distemper virus, the hard pad will appear about 15 days after the first symptoms of distemper are shown. Canine distemper otherwise known as hard pad disease is a highly contagious. The virus is transmitted by an infected dog through the saliva, nasal discharge and urine. An affected dog that managed to survive the first stage of this disease would need a long and expensive treatment.
With distemper vaccination programs, this fatal disease was prevented and with modern antibiotics, the disease can be treated effectively. Distemper outbreak caused by the true distemper virus is not so common these days. A more virulent strain of the distemper virus that causes hard pad is now frequently seen. As mentioned, hard pad and distemper are one and the same canine disease. However studies have verified that the dangerous strain of the CDV that causes hard pad is of a more recent origin. Vaccination will provide the dog adequate life time protection against distemper. For the hard pad disease, the distemper immunization must be followed by an anti hard pad serum to boost the dog’s resistance to the disease. Studies and systematic clinical trials have discovered that distemper and hard pad are not identical although an immunological relationship exists between these two types of diseases.