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Dog with elbow callus

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 usually won’t hurt your pup — But they could crack or bleed. In these cases, they may become painful or lead to an infection.
  • You can soothe minor elbow calluses at home — However, 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 large or begin to crack and swell, they may impact your pup’s mobility or become painful. Keep reading for ways to identify elbow calluses and ways to care for and prevent them from occurring in the first place.

What’s an elbow callus and how does it develop

A dog elbow callus can occur when a dog’s bony elbow rubs against a hard surface so often that thicker tissue develops to protect the bone from damage.

Similarly, hygromas can also occur on bony points of your dog’s body, but they are fluid-filled pockets of swelling surrounded by thick skin tissue. Over time they can grow larger, and if they become infected, they can cause pain and discomfort. Hygromas are created similarly to calluses and are often seen on the elbow.

Hygromas are most common in larger breed dogs. They are not painful and usually do not cause a serious problem. They typically resolve by giving the dog softer bedding to lay on, however, they can sometimes become infected and require drainage and antibiotics.

Dr. Jennifer Schott

There are some specific causes of elbow calluses, which we go over below, that can make your dog more likely to develop one.

When 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.

We rarely have to remove calluses. This would only be necessary if they are persistently infected and painful.

Dr. Jennifer Schott

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. In either case, your dog will need to see a vet to prevent or treat an infected callus or hygroma.

Treating your dog's elbow calluses at home

You can improve minor doggie elbow calluses with some simple at-home treatments. Often, 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 your pup’s skin. Apply the balm 1 to 3 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 gently into and around the callus to keep it moisturized and protected.

Your dog may try to lick at whatever you apply to their skin. If they ingest large amounts of any of these products, they may develop an upset stomach or diarrhea. If your dog has eaten a large amount of any of these, call your vet immediately.

What causes canine elbow calluses?

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

  • Breed. For dogs, elbow calluses usually arise when a pup lies on hard surfaces too 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 additional factors can determine the amount of pressure on the joints when a pet lies on a hard surface. A younger, smaller breed dog may be less likely to develop calluses than an adult, large breed dog that puts more pressure on their joints when they lie down.
  • Arthritis. Dog calluses can pop up more frequently for dogs with arthritis, especially if they need to stop and rest often. Collapsing onto a hard floor or patio surface and lying down for longer periods can cause these calluses to form and grow.
  • Ingrown hair. Another cause of elbow calluses is ingrown hairs . 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 condition can be painful, so have your vet look at calluses to determine how serious it is.

Preventing calluses on your dog’s elbows

If your dog loves lying on hard surfaces in and around your home, you can take a few preventative measures to keep calluses from forming. No matter the season, provide a soft but cool or warm surface for your pup. This prevents them from resting their pointed joints on hard surfaces like wooden floors or tile, or for the outdoors, wooden decks, or concrete for the outdoors.

Invest in soft bedding — Soft surfaces help prevent calluses from forming. If you’ve avoided dog beds 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.

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 great for pups who love cool tile floors because they don’t trap heat beneath the dog.

Try a cooling mat in the summertime — When the temperatures are high, your dog probably seeks out cold tile floors or a shaded patio and sidewalks to lie on. However, the prolonged contact between their joints and hard surfaces can lead to calluses. Cooling mats are an easy-to-clean bed alternative that offers cushion and support while 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.

What’s the difference between an elbow callus and a 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. There are several options to treat hygroma. A vet may use laser therapy or a fine needle biopsy to aspirate 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.

Frequently asked questions

How do I get rid of calluses on my dog’s elbow?

Provide your dog with a well-padded area to lie down to prevent elbow rubs against hard surfaces. Applying a dog balm like Natural Dog Company’s Paw Soother can also help treat and prevent elbow calluses.

Is it normal for dogs to have calluses on elbows?

Elbow calluses can be fairly common with many dogs, especially older dogs and large breeds, or those that are overweight or obese and have more weight pressing their elbow down on hard surfaces. Typically, they are harmless, but dog owners should watch for signs of cracking or infection.

How do you treat an elbow hygroma on a dog?

For a simple elbow hygroma, treatment might involve changing your dog’s bedding and allowing it to heal on its own. In other situations, or if it becomes infected, it may be necessary for your vet to drain the infection and flush it out so that it will heal.

What does an elbow callus look like on a dog?

An elbow callus looks like a thick, crusty spot on a dog’s elbow. It’ll be hard to the touch, but it helps protect your dog’s elbow joint from damage.

Do dogs’ elbow calluses disappear?

A callus develops as a result of repeated trauma or pressure. Once the trauma or pressure ceases, a small elbow callus may simply heal up on its own. Larger or infected ones, however, won’t.

Why are my dog’s elbows crusty?

More than likely, your dog’s elbows are crusty due to the surface they are lying on. When dogs lie on hard surfaces, this can often lead to repeated scraping of their elbow against the hard ground.