So you’ve been the best dog parent you can be. You’ve spent a fortune on the right food, the right bed, and even the latest high-tech gadgets. Against your better judgment, you’ve even relaxed your rule about your dog not being allowed on the couch and bed.
But despite your best efforts, your dog has developed something unsightly on its elbows. So what are dog elbow calluses, and what can you do about them?
What are dog elbow calluses?
If you look at your dog’s elbows, you may notice an area that is either bald or has less fur than the rest of your dog’s legs. These areas often look grey in color and can feel rough and thick when you touch them.
Although they look unsightly, most dog elbow calluses are harmless. They are most common on the elbows but can also occur on other bony parts of your dog’s body. If you play a musical instrument or are old enough to remember using a pencil at school to write your essays, you are probably familiar with calluses yourself.
What causes a dog elbow callus?
A dog’s callus is caused by repeated pressure on a particular area and is also referred to as pressure sores. If you’ve ever squeezed your feet into the latest trend in shoes, you will know that hard skin develops to protect the area that is suffering the pressure.
This is true for our dogs as well. Unless your dog has spent a lifetime on soft surfaces, then it’s common to see these patches on a dog’s elbow. Dogs calluses are especially common on large or giant breeds of dogs with short or single coats.
Each time your pet lies down on a hard floor, the pressure on your dog’s elbow causes the skin to thicken to protect the bone, and dog elbow calluses begin to form. Over time and with repeated actions, the blood vessels in the area get compressed. This results in a decreased blood supply, loss of hair follicles, tissue death, and the formation of an elbow callus.
Our dog’s elbows take most of the pressure, and it’s where you are most likely to find pressure sores. However, they also commonly occur on the sides of the legs, hips, and hocks (back leg elbows)
Dogs that have mobility problems or are convalescing are also prone to develop calluses. And these can appear anywhere where the dog’s body is touching a surface. It’s worth gently moving your dog or turning them over if your dog tends to spend long periods in the same position.
How to prevent dog elbow calluses
Unless you follow your dog around with a pillow for the rest of your life, it’s unlikely that you will be able to prevent them from ever laying down on a hard surface. Especially as the weather gets warmer, our dogs are less likely to use their beds. Preferring instead to seek out cooler surfaces like tiles or patios.
However, if you are worried about calluses developing, make sure that your dog has a dog bed, soft bedding, or mat. You can try to minimize the likelihood of elbow calluses developing by providing soft surfaces for your dog to enjoy.
How to manage dog elbow calluses?
So what do you do if your dog has already developed an elbow callus? Firstly, it’s important to remember that the callus provides an important protection service for your dog’s bones.
The only way to get rid of the callus is to have it surgically removed, which is an extreme measure considering that it is mainly a cosmetic concern rather than something that affects your dog’s health or happiness. There are products like dog elbow butter on the market designed specifically to help soften dog elbow calluses, but petroleum jelly, vitamin e, and coconut oil are good alternatives.
The majority of calluses are completely harmless, but there are occasions when you should contact your Veterinarian.
When a callus is a cause for concern
A normal callus will feel like slightly thickened rough skin. However, if your dog’s elbow calluses are not enough to prevent further trauma to the affected area, it will become inflamed, and pockets of fluid may start to develop (Hygromas).
These hygromas are often split into two groups; uncomplicated and complicated. If your dog has developed an uncomplicated hygroma, it will likely go away without medical treatment if you prevent your dog from laying on hard surfaces. Rarely painful, they are mainly cosmetic, like dog elbow calluses, and no cause for concern. However, on occasion, these hygromas can get infected and are therefore classified as complicated.
How do you know the difference? It’s difficult to tell as they both look similar. The safest option is to take your dog to your veterinarian, who can advise you. If your dog has a complicated hygroma, your vet may need to drain the fluid to prevent further infection and future problems.
In extremely rare cases treating hygroma could result in major surgery. So be on the safe side and seek professional help and never try to drain the fluid yourself.
Dog elbow calluses and what to do about them
As long as a dog’s elbow callus doesn’t change, crack and bleed or become swollen, then you really don’t need to do anything at all. If your dog isn’t in pain and doesn’t seem distressed if you touch the area around the callus, it’s likely that it is just where the skin has changed to protect the bone from further stress.
If you want to prevent further hardening of the skin, you can minimize the risk by ensuring that your dog has a soft bed to sleep in. Rubbing a dog’s elbow callus with elbow butter or balm can help soften the skin. But it is only beneficial if you can prevent your dog from ever lying down on hard surfaces again!
Despite being a bit on the ugly side, dog calluses are natural and generally harmless. But it would be best if you always kept an eye on them for any changes. If you notice a change, especially if the elbow seems swollen or the callus is getting worse, contact your vet straight away.