Dog Elbow Callus Bleeding and Infection Treatment

Dog elbow callus

The callus on your dog’s elbow is caused by pressure with hard surfaces. They are not pretty to look at and dog owners who show or breed their dogs may find them especially unattractive. As with many maladies, prevention is the best management practice.

Dog Elbow Callus

Calluses are not typically dangerous to the dog’s health unless they crack, bleed, or become open sores. Unfortunately, this often happens if no preventative measures are taken. In addition, your dog can develop a secondary infection (callus pyoderma) which can become painful and need veterinarian attention.

The Skin

The skin is an exceptionally large organ that stretches across all surfaces of the body. The purpose of the skin is to protect the body and all the internal muscles, bones, and organs. In addition, the skin helps to regulate body temperature and controls the sense of touch.

Whenever the skin becomes irritated or broken there is the potential for harmful bacteria and fungus to grow.

Cause of Dog Elbow Calluses

Calluses are part of what is referred to as pressure sores. These are areas often located at joints where they form thick skin growth on hairless areas. Calluses result from trauma and friction exerted on the subcutaneous surface. These pressure points push against a hard surface when the dog reclines or sits down.

A dog elbow callus is a formation of wrinkled and thickened skin around specific points that build up in an effort to protect the body. The resulting callus is painless.

Several factors may contribute to elbow callus. Age, breed, weight, hypothyroidism, and lack of soft bedding may all contribute to their development.

Typical Breeds

Elbow calluses commonly affect large short hair breeds. This is due to having greater density which puts pressure on their joints and less hair to offer protection. Great Danes, Boxers, Rottweilers, and Dobermans are all prone to calluses however any breed of dog may develop them.

Elderly Dogs

Senior dogs are more likely to develop calluses at the elbow because they are less active. In addition, they may have other medical problems which exasperate the problem. This may range from arthritis to cancer.

If not treated the calluses could further develop into pressure sores or pyoderma which are painful, easily infected, and hard to treat. To protect them from this, ensure senior and sick dogs have a quality sleeping surface.

Elderly dogs should have a soft sleeping bed that is at least four inches deep. The bed should be big enough to accommodate the dog’s entire body. Bonus points if you get your aging friend an orthopedic bed.

Encourage your dog to get up and move around. This will help prevent bed sores and the calluses opening and developing into pyoderma. Take your dog for a walk to get the stiffness out of their body and encourage blood flow. Walks that are shorter but more frequent are best for a senior dog.

Elderly dogs are more prone to callus simply because their bodies are degenerating. Co-issues such as loss of elasticity of the skin, decreased serum protein, and developing a rough hair coat can contribute to elbow calluses.

Dog Elbow Callus Infection

An elbow callus can progress from being a cosmetic issue to becoming a medical problem rather quickly. If the callus cracks, bleeds, or you observe yellow pus then it is important to seek veterinary help.

Callus Pyoderma

Pyoderma which translates as “pus in the skin” is caused by a secondary bacterial infection. The Merck Veterinary Manual states that “Pressure points, such as elbows, are prone to infections due to repeated pressure.”

Pressure points, such as the elbow are more prone to infections especially if the dog lays on hard surfaces adding to the pressure. Infections can also stem from the pressure causing hair follicular irritation and rupture.

An elbow callus is a skin disease that causes changes to the surface of the skin. The skin is typically a dry environment that discourages bacterial growth. Pressure tends to build up fluids and cause the area to become moister in turn allowing resident and transient bacteria to grow.

You may recognize pyoderma if your dog has an open sore with blood and pus emitting from the opening. In addition, it will cause your dog pain when moving or if you apply pressure. Other symptoms include redness, swelling, and ulceration.

If your dog has a callus pyoderma, they should see their vet. He or she is likely to take a deep skin scraping and analyze that for bacterial or fungal growth. Your vet will most likely prescribe a topical or oral antibiotic to get rid of the infection. A histopathological examination may be necessary if the dog does not respond to antibiotic treatments.


A hygroma is a fluid-filled sac that forms on the dog’s joints especially the olecranon (elbow) or tarsus (ankle). It is like a callus except instead of being hardened layers of skin that build up over time the hygroma is more like a large blister. It is common in dogs that suffer from arthritis at the elbow joint as well as elderly dogs that lie down on hard surfaces.

This pressure causes an inflammatory point where a sac of fluid forms. Initially the sac does not seem to be painful or bothersome to the dog. You may think you can ignore it or that it will naturally reduce itself. This is typically not the case.

Hygromas often lead to infection, decubital ulceration, or fistulas. You may observe leakage of red or yellow pus. At this point they need medical intervention.

A veterinarian will reduce the inflammation by removing pus with needle aspiration. Larger hygroma’s may require flushing or possibly a Penrose drain. Laser therapy has also been used successfully when treating hygromas.

One study, published in The Journal of Small Animal Practice, found that seventy five percent of the dogs involved in their study recovered after the Penrose drain technique was administered. Twenty five percent of the dogs had a recurring hygroma and received surgical excision to remove hygroma. They reported that all dogs did recover well with supportive care.

Bleeding at Callus

Hygromas may burst and bleed or drain pus. This needs to be cleaned and the bleeding stopped immediately. To apply first aid for bleeding use a square bandage or piece of sterile gauze. Apply gentle pressure to the open wound to stop the bleeding. Call your veterinarian to seek advice on further treatment.

Dog Elbow Callus Prevention

Calluses can be prevented if more attention is given to your canine’s resting behavior. To minimize the chances of dog elbow callus formation, try the following preventive measures.


When the hot summer weather hits your dog will seek out cool places to nap. This is often a floor without carpeting. Hardwood floors and tile or linoleum are going to be favorite places. If you have a cement patio your dog may lay down there or even a bear spot under a shade tree.

Therefore, summer is the prime time for dogs to develop elbow callus formations. Inspect your dog regularly to see if there are calluses on the elbow, stomach, and hips. Encourage your dog to sleep in their bed or put an extra bed in another favorite location.

Maintain Healthy Weight

Heavy dogs are predisposed to elbow calluses since the heavier a dog is the more the pressure exerted on the joint. Summer is the perfect time to help your dog lose weight. Lowering his body weight will decrease the pressure and thus reduces the chances of him getting calluses.

Adjust your dogs eating to allow for multiple smaller meals. You might discuss with your vet some recommended brands. For snacks give your dog veggies such as carrots.

Studies have found that nutrition plays a role in callus formation. Doctors Foster and Smith found that calluses may form cue to a vitamin deficiency. One study showed that dogs prone to calluses lack zinc in their system. You may consider adding a supplement that contains zinc or adding zinc rich foods such as red meat, legumes, and eggs.

Make sure to check the ratio of zinc and calcium in your supplements. Calcium supplements tends to absorb the mineral zinc.

Summer is a great time for outdoor play. Throw a frisbee or take your dog to the dog park for some fun social time. If your dog is elderly and arthritic, you can plan on taking shorter slower walks. But still get outside and move several times a day.

Proper Bedding

All dogs should have access to a nice comfortable bed as discussed above. Keeping them off the floor will help avoid skin irritations and pressure sores.

Some dogs seem to want to sleep on the floor and ignore their comfy bed. Use positive reinforcement to encourage your dog to lay down on the bed. You might offer them a treat when they follow your command and get on the bed.

Make their sleeping area one where they are happy and can relax. A favorite stuffed animal toy or a second blankie may help. You might try giving them one of your old blankies. Your odor on the blanket will provide them with comfort.

If your dog is a long-haired breed you might try one of the dog bed styles that is raised off the floor. This will provide more air circulation under the mattress and keep the bed cooler. Also, the netting has a bit of a spring that provides some cushion on pressure points.

Inspect your Dog Regularly

Inspecting your dog daily helps to keep track of any evolving issues. Make it fun. Give your pooch a big friendly rub down and check their body all over.

If you spot a developing elbow callus you can start a home remedy immediately.

Dog Elbow Callus Pads

Elbow pads are designed to cushion your dog from getting calluses. They can be used on any dogs and more so those that are hard to stay put in beds. In addition to protecting your dog, it may also prevent present calluses from getting worse.

The trick with using pads is that they must still allow for mobility and not themselves be sources of friction. Be sure to properly monitor their use and make sure they are not creating a sore by rubbing against the coat or skin.

Dog Elbow Callus Treatment

There are several creams and lotions you can use at the onset of a callus. Remember if the callus starts to show signs of infection, blood, or pus, stop the home remedy at once and contact your vet. Your dog may need a prescription type medicine.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil has great natural lubricating properties. Apply generous amounts on the area and massage it in gently. This will help the callus stay soft and supple.

Vitamin E Oil

Vitamin E oil is very soothing on the skin and has long been used to support overall skin health. Vitamin E contains antioxidants and helps the skin heal. You can apply it as an oil or add it directly to the food as a supplement. Make sure you get food grade or one that is sold as a supplement.

Elbow Butter and cream

Dog elbow butter helps to soften up the calluses. When applied over time, it promotes healing and within no time your dog will be growing back the hair loss after growth of the callus. Callus creams can also suffice and are available over the counter.


There may be times you have a people-only vacation or are away at work.

Boarding facilities have improved in the last ten years to be more dog centric. However, you still want to inspect any boarding facility carefully. If your dog has calluses then you want to make sure they provide the appropriate bedding, get the dogs up and out for walks or playtime, and inspect the dog daily.

You also want to ask about their cleaning routines. If your dog develops and open wound or hygroma at the facility you don’t want germs to enter your dog’s body.

A dog sitter may be a better option. That way your dog has their own bed and is not subject to strange germs. Make sure the sitter understands the dog’s routine and knows how to check their elbow calluses to make sure they are not showing signs of infection.

Wrap Up

The best prevention for elbow calluses is to provide your dog with adequate bedding and to inspect their bodies daily.