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What's that Dry, Hard, Cracking Skin on my Dog's Elbow?

Take a look at your dog's elbows. Do they look like this?

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Don't panic...even though it's kinda ugly -- it's probably not that painful unless you have a senior dog (then they can really become an issue - but more on that later), these elbow calluses are not that unusual. The cause? Usually a heavy dog laying on a hard surface repeatedly over a few years. The constant wear, and you dog's increasing weight strips away the hair and creates a hardened callus. 

When you dog is in middle-adulthood and the joints are generally healthy, this isn't a huge problem. It is unsightly for you, but not really a problem for your dog...most of the time.

Occasionally, as the Huntsville Animal Hospital in Huntsville, Alabama states, "...the hair becomes entrapped in the skin and they can become “oozy” or infected. In these cases antibiotics may be required, which are usually needed for several weeks or months".

While not a common occurrence, it does happen and we should make sure to pay attention to this area from time to time. When you're bathing your dog, look over the elbows thoroughly - just to make sure you don't see any problems developing. If you see any kind of redness, drainage or signs of infection - get to your vet immediately to prevent serious problems down the road. 

When should you be concerned about your dog's elbow callus?

As your dog ages, his or her joints can stiffen, deteriorate and become arthritic -- just like yours. As your dog's joints stiffen, he becomes less mobile. Occasionally the joints can also experience some swelling. As your dog gets into his or her golden years, an elbow callus can really affect his ability to walk and can worsen his or her mobility. As the joints stiffen, you dog hits the floor harder - causing the callus to grow and worsen.

This gradual progression and cycle of pain can cause the harmless elbow callus that didn't affect your five year old dog, to turn into a huge problem for your eleven year old dog. The progression over time is slow, but the end result can be striking....

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How to Manage Your Dog's Elbow Callus

If your dog is already a senior dog with a developed callus, do your best to keep a soft place for him to lay. This will prevent the callus from worsening over time and also give some relief for his painful aging joints. Additionally, using a properly developed canine balm to soften the skin on a daily basis can help moisturize and restore the skin's elasticity over time. 

Never use a lotion formulated for humans on your dog's skin. Why? Because your dog's skin is different than human skin. Canine skin is very thin compared to human skin. Additionally the pH of canine skin is also much different. The same lotion that soothes your skin can cause burning, irritation and discomfort for your dog. Finally, humans don't usually lick their skin -- at least most of us :) -- so your lotion probably contains some ingredients that are not intended to be ingested. 

Like most things, the best way to manage your dog's elbow callus is to try your best to prevent it. A little TLC when your dog is 4 or 5 years old, can mean a much better quality of life as your dog reaches 9, 10 or 11 years old. Aside from the quality of life, there are also financial implications as well - an elbow infection or surgical removal of an inflamed callus that is limiting your dog's mobility can be very expensive. 

So make sure you keep an eye on those elbows and keep them soft and hydrated when your dog is young. Invest in a hammock, cushion, mat or bed for your dog to keep him or her from pounding their elbows on the floor or ground. If you do see the callus developing, take action - just a few minutes a week and a few dollars a year now, can save a lot of problems and a lot of money later.

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