Dog elbow calluses can often develop in dogs and are more common in larger and short-haired dogs that usually lay down on hard surfaces. Dogs that have them usually show a darker spot on the elbow. So if you start noticing a darker spot in your dog’s elbows that wasn’t there before, you’re probably looking at an elbow callus. Most of the time, they’re not something you need to worry about. However, there are some things you can do to prevent them from developing into a more serious condition that can require veterinary assistance.

What are dog elbow calluses?

Calluses are spots on the skin that get thicker and rough, and where hair often falls out. In dogs, some calluses are dark brown and black or grey, depending on the dog’s skin color. As the name suggests, dog elbow calluses are calluses that are located in a dog’s elbow which is one of the places where they most commonly appear. Although they don’t look great, they usually aren’t painful or dangerous. However, they can be itchy and uncomfortable to some dogs.

In extreme cases, if a dog’s elbow calluses are left untreated, they can crack open which can cause soreness and become infected.

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Why do they appear?

Calluses are caused by continuous pressure applied to a dog’s elbows or any other part of its body. This pressure results in a callus forming naturally as a way to protect the bone structure in that area from that same pressure or impact. The heavier a dog is, the more likely it is for it to develop elbow calluses. Also, short-haired dogs don’t have that extra layer of protection on their elbows that long-haired dogs have as a longer fur can soften the impact of the elbow against the hard floor. Although the elbow is the most common place where dogs develop calluses, they can also show up in other parts of their bodies such as the hips, hocks, and along the sides of the legs.

What can dog owners do to prevent and treat them?

As mentioned before, dog elbow calluses form due to continuous pressure on a dog’s elbows. Therefore, the best way to prevent elbow calluses from forming is by protecting the elbow. Keeping the elbows moisturized by using a moisturizing balm for dogs can also prevent the skin from becoming rough and forming a callus. 

With that in mind, here are some suggestions of what dog owners can do to help:

  • Providing a soft bed: allowing their dogs to sleep on a hard floor can speed up the callus formation process. Therefore, providing a soft bed and encouraging their dogs to sleep in it is a great form of prevention. Dog owners can do this by using positive reinforcement and rewarding their dogs with treats or toys every time they lay on their bed.
  • Sleeving their dogs’ elbows: using a sock to create a sleeve to slip over a dog’s elbows is a great way to provide some extra protection. Some self-adhesive medical tape can help keep the sleeve in place.
  • Applying petroleum jelly: petroleum jelly is a mixture of wax and mineral oils that helps seal a dog’s skin and retain moisture. Dog owners can apply it to their dogs’ elbows and massage the product in.
  • Using vitamin E: this vitamin is known for its skin repairing benefits. It helps protect against free radicals in the skin and other cells. Dog owners can either mix vitamin E in their dog’s food or apply vitamin E oil directly on their dogs’ skin.
  • Coconut oil: this is another great product that will help keep a dog’s elbow skin moist. Dog owners can simply apply it directly to their dogs’ elbows for some relief.

Some dog owners also wonder if there’s a possibility to simply cut off the calluses. However, surgical removal usually isn’t recommended, unless a vet confirms it’s something more than a simples callus. So if you’re wondering if you should consider removing your dog’s elbow calluses, make sure to talk with your vet about it first.

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What happens when you ignore an elbow callus?

In extreme cases, dog elbow calluses can develop into other serious conditions, such as:

  • Pyoderma: when dogs start chewing and scratching these calluses, they can create small cracks in the hardened skin. These cracks allow a bacteria called Staphylococcus to enter and create an infection known as Pyoderma. If you see your dog’s skin starting to crack, bleed, ooze or scale, it’s time to see a vet immediately.
  • Hygroma: this condition is commonly confused with a callus but can also develop at the same time as a callus. A hygroma is a pocket of fluid that develops on a dog’s elbows and is very similar to blisters in humans. If uninfected, hygromas can be drained by a vet and easily heal if the dog uses soft bedding instead of laying down on hard surfaces. When infected, hygromas can be painful and may require surgical removal.

To prevent any complications and extreme conditions, it’s important to keep an eye on your dog and follow the suggestions mentioned above to keep your dog’s elbows protected and the skin moisturized. If, at any point, you suspect that your dog is starting to develop one of these conditions, you’ll need to have your dog checked by a vet as soon as possible. Early detection is key for a fast recovery.

Making sense of it all

Although simple dog elbow calluses are no reason to worry, they can develop into more serious conditions. That’s why it’s important to work on prevention by avoiding your dog sleeping on hard surfaces and keeping the elbows protected and moisturized. As soon as a callus starts to develop, regular monitoring is important to prevent any infections which require an immediate visit to the vet.

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