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canine health problems
Callus on a dog´s elbow

The essentials

  • Calluses are thick, rough patches on a dog’s skin — You may notice calluses on your dog’s elbows, especially if they love to lay on concrete patios or tile floors.
  • They normally won’t hurt your pup — But they could crack or bleed. In these cases, they could hurt or lead to an infection.
  • You can soothe minor elbow calluses at home — For larger or painful elbow calluses, you should talk to your dog’s vet about treatment options.

Elbow calluses may be unsightly, but they normally don’t cause your dog any pain. However, if they grow to be large, they may impact your pup’s mobility. Dry calluses can be itchy, and if they crack or swell, they may be painful.

Treating your dog's elbow calluses at home

You may be able to improve minor doggie elbow calluses with some simple at-home treatments. Oftentimes, supplying plenty of soft surfaces — indoors and out — and moisturizing balms can help get rid of small-but-tough calluses.

Apply a dog balm — Try a natural balm, such as Natural Dog Company’s Paw Soother, which works for both paws and elbows to prevent dry skin and irritation. Ingredients like cocoa butter, mango butter, coconut oil, and jojoba oil help moisturize, soothe, and protect doggie skin.

👉 Apply the balm one to three times daily to see improvement.

Use vitamin E — You can also soothe your dog’s elbow calluses using household items such as vitamin E oil or petroleum jelly, often known by the brand name Vaseline. Massage the product into and around the callus gently to keep it moisturized and protected.

When Fido needs to visit the vet

Keep an eye on your dog’s elbow calluses. If they change color or appearance, you’ll need your vet to take a look. This is especially true for calluses that start to crack or bleed because they can lead to an infection. Cracks allow bacteria to enter the skin and can lead to bacterial infections, such as pyoderma.

👉 Your vet may recommend surgery to remove calluses that cause discomfort or pain.

“It is very rare that an elbow callus will need to be surgically removed,” said our veterinary advisor, Dr. Erica Irish, DVM. “This is because the elbow is a frequently flexed joint, which puts lots of tension on any potential surgical site.”

Compared to other pressure points of a dog’s body, such as the knees or hips, dog elbows are more prone to calluses and related infections. Your dog will need to see a vet to prevent or treat infected calluses.

What causes canine elbow calluses?

Here are some of the most common causes for your dog’s scaly elbows:

Breed. For dogs, elbow calluses usually arise when a pup lies on hard surfaces often. The calluses help protect the pointy bones. This is especially true if you own a larger breed dog, such as a mastiff, Great Dane, Rottweiler, or Labrador retriever. Short-haired pups with less fur protecting the joints may also experience elbow calluses.

Age and weight. These are extra factors that can determine the amount of pressure on the joints when a pet lies on a hard surface.

Arthritis. Dog calluses can pop up more frequently for dogs with arthritis, especially if they need to stop and rest often. Collapsing down onto a hard floor or patio surface and lying down for longer periods of time can cause these calluses to form and grow.

Ingrown hair. Another less common cause of an elbow callus is ingrown hair. The hair becomes trapped within the skin, and the skin may begin to grow hard and scaly over the hair. In this instance, the trapped hair can lead to irritation and infection. Ingrown hairs can also cause callus pyoderma or pus-filled skin. This can be painful, so have your vet look at calluses to determine how serious they are.

What’s the difference between an elbow callus and hygroma? 

Elbow calluses often grow in the same area as elbow hygromas, which are pockets of fluid or pus. Calluses grow on the skin, while hygromas develop swelling under the skin .

To treat calluses, a vet may refer your pup to a surgical specialist for the most severe cases, or you can keep the area clean and moisturized to reduce minor calluses. To treat hygroma, there are several options. A vet may use laser therapy or a fine needle biopsy to remove the fluid of small hygromas. For more serious hygromas, a veterinarian may use surgical drainage or even skin grafts.

Both calluses and hygromas can range in severity, so if you notice dry patches of skin or bumps around your dog’s elbows, take them to the vet.

Preventing calluses on your doggie’s pointy elbows

If you notice that your dog loves lying on the hard surfaces in and around your home, you can put in place a few preventative measures to keep calluses from forming. No matter the season, you can provide a soft but cool or warm surface for your pup, so they aren’t resting their pointed joints on concrete or tile.

Invest in soft bedding — Soft surfaces help prevent calluses from forming. If you’ve avoided dog beds in the past because you have a super-chewer, consider a chew-proof bed. For outdoor spaces, find a dog bed that is easy to wash. This way, your dog can still bask in the sunshine without the added pressure on their elbows from a sidewalk or hard patio surface.

👉  Make sure your pup has access to soft dog bedding that is big enough for them, especially in rooms with hard floors.

Consider an elevated dog bed — Elevated or raised dog beds are designed to protect your dog’s joints. They provide comfort and support, plus they’re easy to clean and hard to chew up. Elevated dog beds are also a great option for pups that love cool tile floors because they don’t trap heat beneath the dog (they’re also Dr. Irish’s favorite).

Try a cooling mat in the summertime — Your dog probably seeks out cold tile floors or shaded patio and sidewalks to lie on when the temperatures are high. But the prolonged contact between their joints and hard surfaces can lead to calluses. Cooling mats are an easy-to-clean bed alternative that offers some cushion and support while also keeping your dog’s body at a comfortable temperature.

Get an elbow brace for your dog — An elbow brace can help protect elbow calluses and hygromas for dogs. The brace wraps comfortably around your dog’s body and sits snugly over the callus or hygroma with a non-irritating fabric. With this product, your dog can still move and play freely while allowing the spot to heal.