Why Do Big Dogs Get Calluses On Their Elbows?

All dogs can get elbow calluses, but big dogs are more susceptible to developing these rough patches of skin. This is because elbow calluses develop when a dog lays down on a hard surface. So, the greater the weight of the dog, the more likely they are to develop elbow calluses.

Makes sense, right?

Is it normal for dogs to get calluses on elbows?

If your dog routinely lays down on solid surfaces, it is likely to develop elbow calluses. Even if you provide soft, comfy bedding for them, some dogs just prefer to lay down on hard floors where their tummies will be cool.

Elbow calluses are essentially pressure sores, and you do need to keep an eye on them. They can become ulcerated, crack, bleed, and can become infected.

Why do dogs’ elbows get crusty?

Crusty elbows in dogs form to take the pressure off of the joint when the dog flops down for a rest or a nap on a hard surface.

Dogs most often develop these calluses on their elbows, but they can also develop them on their hips, sides of the leg, and hocks. Deep-chested breeds like the Husky can sometimes develop calluses on their sternum.

What breeds are most likely to develop elbow calluses?

Because of their weight, large breeds are more likely to develop crusty elbows. If they have short hair they are even more likely to develop these calluses.

Breeds like Mastiffs and Labs that are both big and have short hair are the most likely to develop these types of calluses.

Are dog elbow calluses painful?

Dog calluses are usually not painful for dogs. They can occasionally become painful when a hair becomes ingrown and they get infected. If an infection happens in a callus your dog may need antibiotics.

Elbow calluses can become more severe as dogs age and “flop” down more on the floor. When this happens the calluses will get larger and sometimes bleed.

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

There are several different strategies for getting rid of calluses on dog elbows. One of the more important strategies is for your dog to lie on a cushioned surface.

Sometimes providing your dog with a comfortable bed can help – if they are willing to lay in the bed.

Veterinary Interventions

Surgery isn’t usually considered for an elbow callus in a dog because the incision site would be a joint and stitches are likely to come out when the dog is moving around.

Your vet may also recommend supplements and food that are shown to help reduce inflammation. Several options include:

  • Medi-Cal Royal Canin Mobility Support: This is a dog food that contains fatty acids, chondroitin, glucosamine, and farmed green-lipped mussel powder. The goal is to reduce inflammation.
  • Cartrophen Vet: This reduces inflammation and increases the fluids that lubricate the joint.
  • Flexadin: This is a treat that contains anti-inflammatory agents and can be a chewy treat or a tablet.

Home Treatments

There are also several home remedies that you can use for elbow calluses in dogs. Two of the most effective are dog balm and vitamin E.

Dog balm: There are lots of companies that sell good quality dog balm, or you can make your own. Dog balm is normally used on both paws and elbows and it’s meant to protect doggie skin.

Vitamin E: Massage liquid vitamin E into your dog’s elbows to help keep them soft and promote healing.

Vaseline: Some people really dislike vaseline because dogs can (and do) lick it off. However, Vaseline is one of the best products for keeping moisture in your dog’s skin and if you massage it in well they won’t be able to get much of it in their mouths.

Cooling Mat: Dogs often seek out hard floors because they are cooler than cushioned floors. Getting your dog a cooling mat will help to keep your dog cool and provide a more cushioned surface for them to lay on.

Elbow brace: Not all dogs will tolerate wearing an elbow brace, but for dogs that will, these devices can help. An elbow brace for a dog works like a knee or a wrist brace for a human. It allows movement while covering the area and letting it heal.

Elevated or soft bed: You want to provide your dog with a soft place to lie down. A soft bed can work well, but if your dog doesn’t like to lie down in a soft bed, then an elevated sling-type bed can be a good alternative. These beds don’t trap heat and may be more appealing to dogs that like to stay cool.

When should a dog go to the vet for elbow calluses?

Most dog elbow calluses are harmless, but you do need to keep an eye on them. If you see the following signs, take your dog to the vet.

  • Cracking callus
  • Bleeding callus
  • Callus that looks infected

If your dog has a cracked or bleeding callus it can lead to infections and you should have it treated before an infection sets in. It’s much easier to treat elbows before they get infected than after.

Risk Factors for Elbow Calluses

Several different risk factors make your dog more prone to getting elbow calluses.

  • Breed: Because elbow calluses are a function of weight plus laying on hard surfaces, large breed dogs with shorter hair are the most susceptible to developing them. Breeds like Great Danes, Mastiffs, Rottweilers, and Labrador retrievers are all likely to develop elbow calluses. Small dogs with short hair also are more prone to elbow calluses.
  • Weight: Heavier dogs are more likely to get elbow calluses.
  • Age: As dogs age, they get more arthritis, and that arthritis can develop into elbow calluses.
  • Ingrown hair: Ingrown hair on the elbows can sometimes cause elbow calluses to form. Elbow calluses can also cause ingrown hairs to develop.
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