Some dogs are prone to developing calluses on their elbows and other bony parts of their body. These easily treated calluses may form due to the dog’s environmental condition, such as living or sleeping on unpadded surfaces. However, the dog’s breed, age, weight or health may play a part in their development. On rare occasions, these calluses may become infected or develop a thick scale or crust, which may cause your dog some pain.
Your dog may develop elbow calluses if she sleeps on a hard surface, such as a concrete or tile floor. These calluses are similar to bed sores in human beings. The skin at her elbows and on the point of her hocks is relatively thin and sensitive, so the pressure at these joints caused by her weight against the floor or ground combined with friction against the surface may cause the skin to thicken. While these calluses may be unattractive, they are usually easy to treat by providing soft bedding. Keep your dog's calluses clean and dry and moisturize them with ordinary hand lotion and they may grow smaller -- or even disappear -- before you know it.
When a dog develops an infection of her elbow calluses she may develop callus pyoderma. The term pyoderma means “pus in the skin.” The elbow pressure points are prone to bacterial infection, possibly due to irritation of their hair follicles. Pyoderma caused by bacteria also can be recognized by scaling of the skin. The elbow skin scaling may be very thick and painful, although hairs might grow through part of it, particularly at the edges. Pustules also may develop in the callus area, but they don't necessarily have to be present for pyoderma to occur. Pyoderma may be more difficult to diagnose in shorthaired dogs because they might not develop pustules, but their skin still will be red and pus-filled.
In some dogs, a pocket of fluid called a hygroma may form over the elbow's pressure point instead of or in addition to a callus. An uninfected hygroma is painless and may heal on its own if your dog is given a soft place to sleep. An infected hygroma may be tender. It also may require surgery, including skin grafts or skin flaps to treat it. Hyperkeratosis, which is an overgrowth of thick tissue, may also occur in a dog’s callus areas. Unlike ordinary calluses, which form due to trauma to a dog’s elbows, hyperkeratosis often develops from canine distemper or pemphigus. However, hyperkeratosis may not have any recognizable cause.
Very large dogs or heavy dogs are prone to developing ordinary, uninfected elbow calluses. Such calluses are easily treated by cleaning them and applying over-the-counter skin lotion. Dogs who have little body fat, such as sighthounds or elderly dogs also may be prone to ordinary skin calluses. However, any dog who sleeps on a rough surface or who repeatedly traumatizes her elbows may develop callus pyoderma. A visit to the vet is in order if your dog's elbow calluses are red, develop pustules or do not respond to cleaning and moisturizing.