Elbow Calluses in Dogs

Estimated Reading Time 5 minutes
Elbow Calluses in Dogs

In dogs, calluses on the elbow appear like abnormal growths with elephant-like skin surfaces. These calluses usually develop on the elbow and other bony projections of the joints in the hips, sternum, and hock. They’re usually caused by frequently lying on hard surfaces. The primary concern of many pet owners when it comes to elbow calluses is cosmetic. Calluses are simply unsightly, particularly the ones that are large. Keep reading to learn how to care for your dog’s elbow calluses and when they need to see your vet.

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Common Causes and Treatments for Elbow Calluses

An elbow callus can grow with repetitive pressure. It can also be caused by foreign body penetration, such as ingrown hairs. As the skin gets thicker, hairs in the area will soon fall off, leaving behind a rough skin surface.

Sometimes, the calluses can develop into large masses that can impede the dog’s movements, and/or become a source of pain and itching. In this case, there is a need for surgical removal of the callus.

If your pet’s elbow calluses are changing in appearance or have started to bother your dog, it is highly recommended to schedule an appointment with your vet for a thorough exam and appropriate treatment. Without treatment, your dog’s callus can become cracked and ulcerated. It may bleed and sores may develop, which can make the callus favorable to infection.

What dog breeds are at risk for developing elbow calluses?

Elbow calluses are very common in short-coated, large dog breeds. Because of the pressure that the weight of giant and large dog breeds exert on their elbow while lying down, they are more likely to develop elbow calluses. These breeds include the Great Dane, Rottweiler, Bullmastiff, and Labrador Retriever to name a few.

Other Risk Factors for Elbow Calluses in Dogs


Senior dogs are more prone to developing elbow calluses because they tend to have a sedentary lifestyle. As age-related issues set in, your senior dog may suffer from aches, pains, and discomfort. As they slow down and become less active, they spend more time lounging on hard floors or hard-packed dirt, which makes them more likely to have elbow calluses.

Also, aging causes the skin of dogs to lose its elasticity and become thinner. This can make a dog’s skin more vulnerable to callus formation as the body’s natural protection against hard surfaces is significantly reduced.

Mobility Issues

Arthritis, injuries, recovery from a procedure, or debilitating conditions can cause partial or complete mobility disabilities and increase a dog’s risk of pressure sores. Encouraging your dog to lie down on clean, soft bedding can protect his elbows and other joints from calluses, painful sores, and infections.

Elbow Callus vs. Hygroma

Both elbow calluses and hygromas develop under the skin on bony parts of a dog’s body, like the elbow, hock, or hip. But unlike elbow calluses which are hard and dry, hygromas are squishy and filled with fluid.

The pressure of a dog’s weight when resting on a hard surface can damage the tissue over the bones of the elbow. If your dog continues to sleep or rest on hard surfaces, the repeated insult to the tissue causes the body to form a fluid-filled pocket to cushion the boney tissues.

Just like elbow calluses, hygromas can become infected, which can be a source of pain and discomfort for your dog. The following symptoms are usually present when a hygroma is infected:

  • Oozing fluid
  • Bacterial infection
  • Blackheads may form around the hygroma
  • Inflammation at the site

A hygroma is said to be simple or uncomplicated when it’s not painful and its existence is mostly a cosmetic concern. Switching your dog’s bedding to a softer one and using elbow pads or bandages can usually solve the problem.

Avoid piercing the hygroma as this can introduce infection, which could eventually create a complicated hygroma. Once infected, surgery may be necessary to drain the contents of a complicated hygroma.

How to Care for Your Dog’s Elbow Calluses

Here are some steps you can take to alleviate the symptoms of elbow calluses in dogs or altogether prevent them from recurring.

  • Provide soft bedding for your dog. Place it in areas of your home where it’s cold. You may have noticed your dog loves to lie down on tiles or hardwood floors. Placing the soft bedding on any of these areas can help ensure that he will lay on the bed instead of on the floor.
  • During days when the weather is hot and your dog loves to spend time outdoors, you can buy cooling pads or elevated beds for your pooch to sleep on while outside.
  • Place a sleeve over your dog’s elbow to protect the area. You can create a sleeve using a sock and slip it over his elbow to act as a cushion from the hard surface. Keep the sock in place using self-adhesive medical tape.
  • Moisturizers and elbow balms can be applied generously on the callus to help lock in moisture and keep it well-moisturized. Be sure that your dog cannot lick off the ointment or cream as this can lead to severe stomach upset.
  • Supplement your pet’s diet with vitamin E. It’s rich in antioxidants that combat free radicals and promotes skin healing.
  • Provide adequate opportunities for physical activity and exercise so your dog won’t spend a lot of time being a couch potato.
  • Make a habit of checking your pet’s elbow callus to make sure it’s not bleeding or ulcerated.
  • Elbow calluses in dogs should never be wrapped or bandaged unless your vet instructs you to.
  • If the callus is bleeding, seeping, or appears infected, take your dog to your vet immediately.

Read more:

Obesity in Dogs: What You Need to Know if Your Favorite Canine is Overweight

Cranial Cruciate Ligament Injuries in Dogs

Medial Patellar Luxation (MPL) in Pets

Need to speak with a veterinarian regarding your dog’s elbow callus or another condition?

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Published: 11/2/2021
Last updated: 11/3/2021

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