Elbow calluses are common in large to giant breed dogs. A callus is a thickened area of skin caused by pressure or constant friction over a pressure point site. The elbow is the most common site this is seen, but can also occur on the hocks. In deep chested dogs, you may also find calluses on the sternum.
A callus can be a normal finding in large dogs due to the patient’s preference for hard surface to lie on, inadequate soft bedding, obesity, hypothyroidism or orthopedic problems that forces a pet to constantly be lying down.
No treatment is necessary for calluses, just mere observance. Provision of soft bedding or padding can aid in minimizing the callus size. I will often suggest moisturizing the area with biobalm, my favorite is the Dermoscent brand.
When can a callus become a problem?
It may be difficult to get a dog to lie on a soft padded bed and there is a potential for the callus to become complicated by secondary bacterial infection. In these cases, the area may develop crusts, the skin my crack and bleed, there may be erythema, swelling and even ulceration, to the extent that the area can develop a deep pyoderma. The latter occurs when the hair follicles are impacted due to a thickened dermis, free hair in the dermis acts as a foreign body and leads to deep infection. I have also seen the skin in the elbow area become so hyperplastic that it forms folds and a fold pyoderma then ensues. Once infection develops the area becomes pruritic to the patient.
Treatment will depend if there is infection present. Keep in mind that if there is evidence of deep pyoderma, a long course of antibiotics will be necessary. Calluses that are prone to infection should be washed with a medicated shampoo on some maintenance schedule
Should the dog have other lesions on the body, other differentials to consider with crusts or thickening of the elbows is demodex, dermatophyte, hepatocutaneous (usually older dogs), or autoimmune.
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