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.
And against your better judgement 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 their 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 that there is an area that is either bald or has less fur than the rest of your dog’s legs. These areas often look grey in colour and can feel rough and thick when you touch them.
Although they look unsightly, most dog elbow calluses are harmless. While they are most common on the elbows. Theses calluses 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. Then you are probably familiar with calluses yourself.
What causes a dog elbow callus?
Calluses are caused by repeated pressure on a particular area and are 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 elbow patches on our four legged friends. Especially on large or giant breed dogs or dogs with a short or single coat.
Each time your dog lies down on a hard surface, the pressure causes the skin to thicken in order 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 and tissue death and calluses.
Our dogs 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 if you’re unsure!)
Dogs that have mobility problems or are convalescing are also prone to sores and 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 does have a soft bed or mat to lay on. Although they may choose to sleep elsewhere. You can try to minimise 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 elbow calluses? Firstly, it’s important to remember that the callus is providing 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 on the market that are designed especially to help soften dog elbow calluses like Wild dog skin balm but both Vaseline or coconut oil can be used as alternatives.
The majority of calluses are completely harmless, but there are occasions when you should contact your Veterinarian.
When a callus is cause for concern
A normal callus will just feel like slightly thickened rough skin. However, if the callus is 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 is likely to disappear without medical intervention, if your dog is prevented from laying on hard surfaces.
Rarely painful, they are mainly a cosmetic issue just like dog elbow calluses and no cause for concern. However, on occasion these hygromas can become 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 take your dog to your veterinarian who can advise you. If your dog does have a complicated hygroma then your vet may need to drain the fluid to prevent further infection and any future problems.
In extremely rare cases treating a hygroma results 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 the callus doesn’t change, split or become swollen then you really don’t need to do anything at all. If your dog isn’t in pain and doesn’t seemed distressed if you touch the area around the callus. Then it’s likely that it is just where the skin has changed in order to protect the bone from further stress.
If you want to do something to prevent further hardening of the skin you can minimise the risk by making sure that your dog has somewhere soft to sleep.
Rubbing cream into the affected area can help soften the skin. But is only really useful if you can prevent your dog from ever laying down on a hard surface again!
Despite being a bit on the ugly side, dog elbow calluses are generally harmless. But you should always keep an eye on them for any changes. If you notice a change, especially if the elbow seems swollen do contact your vet straight away.