“By changing nothing, nothing changes.”~ Tony Robbins

I posed a question to fellow Mastiff owners on a Facebook group board several weeks ago.   Here is my question, paraphrased for brevity.

“What do you do about your dog’s elbow and hock calluses?  For calluses that are not causing any issues today, is there anything that can be done to either prevent them from getting worse or heal them altogether?”

The responses I got back were mixed but contained an underlying theme.  Some said don’t bother, they are inevitable in big dogs and cannot be prevented.  Others suggested that calluses are “no big deal” and can actually be beneficial for the dog.

A few people recommended products such as Bag Balm, Dog Leggs, coconut or vitamin E oil, and soft bedding, but the overall consensus was that fighting calluses would be a losing battle.

Well, if there is one way to fire Big Dog Mom up, it is to tell her to give up before even entering the ring!

This post is PART ONE of my journey to prove them wrong.

What Are Calluses?

Just like humans, calluses are caused by skin coming into contact with something rough (carpet) or hard (tile or concrete) repeatedly.  Over time, rough skin forms and, if left untreated, becomes a callus.

The most obvious sign of a callus is the loss of hair and formation of dark, wrinkled, and thickened skin around the bony points of the elbow and hock.  Calluses are most common in large and giant breed dogs.

The consensus of most big dog folks is that calluses are primarily a cosmetic concern and do not pose a health risk unless they are left to a point where they crack and bleed.  Calluses at this point can easily become infected and should absolutely be treated by a veterinarian as soon as possible. A small percent of calluses can become inflamed to the point of infection with resultant ulceration and draining fistulas.  When this happens, it presents a very real problem which is extremely tough to deal with, often requiring long-term topical and systemic medication followed by surgery.

Note: Often lumped in with calluses are hygromas.  Hygromas are a subcutaneous, fluid filled swelling at the pressure point of a bone (usually on the elbow).  Similar to calluses, they are caused by repeated trauma at the joint by lying on hard surfaces. They are the body’s way of protecting the joint and, as such, SHOULD NOT BE DRAINED in most cases.  In my experience, hygromas, while sometimes unsightly, go away in time.  Sulley had two relatively large hygromas on each of his elbows when he was about 20 months old.  They appeared and were gone in the matter of three months.  For more information on hygromas, read here.

Blissful Dog Elbow Butter Trial

**This review is NOT sponsored or endorsed in any way by Blissful Dog.  This is simply an honest review of my experience so far in using Elbow Butter on my dogs.  Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links to products I use and recommend.  

Determined to find a treatment for Junior’s and Sulley’s calluses, I bought a container of Bag Balm from a local feed store.  I began to apply it 2-3 times a day for about 4 days before my son and daughter revolted from the smell.  As soon as I would open the container, they would run out of the room pretend gagging.  Apologies to the Bag Balm people.  My kids can be dramatic.  Nonetheless, I did agree to find a better smelling alternative.

A simple Google search revealed Blissful Dog Elbow Butter which is an all-natural product made in Minnesota.

From the Blissful Dog website, the ingredients of the Elbow Butter are:

all natural and organic Shea Butter, Olive Oil, Castor Oil, Avocado Oil, Beeswax, Chamomile Infusion, Infusion of Calendula Herbs, Comfrey Infusion, St. John’s Wort Oil, a Dash of Aromatherapy and a LOT of LOVE.”

I bought the Blissful Dog Elbow Butter 8 oz Tin on Amazon and started to apply it 3 times a day every day to both Junior’s and Sulley’s elbows and hocks.  I have been applying the Elbow Butter for four weeks, 2 -3 times a day and here is what I found.

The Blissful Dog Elbow Butter for Dog Elbow Calluses, 1-Ounce

Price: $8.95

4.0 out of 5 stars (70 customer reviews)

2 used & new available from $5.00

5 More Ways To Prevent And Treat Calluses

1. Provide supremely supportive surfaces for your dog to lay on.

I have two Big Barker Premium Dog Beds which I believe are worth their weight in gold.  While Junior and Sulley prefer to sprawl out on the tile floor during the day when it is hot, at night and in the cooler months, they love to snuggle on their Big Barker!  And to keep them up off the concrete outside, I have a Kuranda Dog Bed which I LOVE.  It is lightweight, super easy to clean and chew proof.  I have had ours sitting outside in the AZ heat for several years and it still looks brand new.

And, while support is key, it is not everything when it comes to calluses.  Keep in mind that FRICTION can also be a huge contributor in the development of calluses due to the constant rubbing against the skin.  Naturally I learned that little tidbit from Dawg Business: A Note On Elbow Calluses  3 weeks into my trial.  For the last three weeks I had been gating the dogs in our carpeted bedroom so that Sulley and Junior would sleep on the carpet rather than having the option to lay on the tile.  Most nights the boys do sleep next to our bed on the carpet or on their Big Barker, but for this trial I was trying to control the amount of time they spent on the tile.

What is the motto?  When you know better, you do better?

In an attempt to reduce the amount of friction on my dogs’ elbows and hocks, I have started to lay out two soft Queen size comforters next to my bed to cover up as much of the carpet as possible.  I lay them down with the Big Barker in between in hopes that if they don’t lay on the bed they will at least lay on a surface with less friction on their skin.  I am interested to see if this makes any difference when I combine it with the Elbow Butter and the next few products.

Big Barker 7-Inch Pillow Top Orthopedic Extra Large (52 X 36 X 7-Inch) Bed for Dogs - Khaki

Price: $279.95

4.9 out of 5 stars (2836 customer reviews)

3 used & new available from $279.95

Kuranda Almond PVC Chewproof Dog Bed - XL (44x27) - Ballistic Nylon - Smoke by Kuranda

Price: $154.21

(0 customer reviews)

3 used & new available from $154.21

The Green Pet Shop Self Cooling Pet Pad, Extra Large

Price: $59.97

3.9 out of 5 stars (1277 customer reviews)

10 used & new available from $59.97

2. Try a Cooling Mat during the warm summer months.

I have not actually used a cooling mat, but I have heard great things from others about them.  Check out this review from My Brown Newfies about her experience using a cooling mat with her two Newfoundlands.  Don’t tell Sulley and Junior, but I am considering one of these for their Christmas present this year.

3. Use Dog Leggs when you know your dog will be on hard or rough surfaces.

I don’t have a pair of these, but like the Cooling Mat, I have heard good things about them.  They are particularly helpful for the prevention and treatment of hygromas.

4. Try Vitamin E oil or Petroleum Jelly (Vaseline) or Bag Balm as alternative topicals that may also help the healing process.

All of these products will serve to soften the callus and may aide in the healing process.  Similar to the Elbow Butter, you will want to really massage all of these topicals into the callus for optimal effectiveness.

5. Consider the benefits of improved nutrition.

I have heard two different perspectives with respect to diet affecting the development of calluses.  One that said diet is everything, the other that said diet made no difference.

Here’s what I say.  As I stated in my post What To Do About Dog Food? First, Let Go Of The Guilt!,  I am on a nutritional journey of sorts with Junior and Sulley, slowly transitioning them to a raw diet.

Do I think that will magically make their calluses disappear?  Not in the least.

But what I do believe is that a more species appropriate diet is better for their health overall.  Because of that, I can’t help but think a better diet might help the healing process from the inside out.

Calluses Inevitable Or Preventable?

Over the last 4 weeks the texture of Junior’s and Sulley’s calluses has improved significantly and I have noticed some re-growth of hair on Sulley’s elbows.  However, you can see from my Day 1 photos to my Day 25 photos, there has not been a remarkable change in the overall size of their calluses since starting on this journey.

Was it that the Elbow Butter just wasn’t enough on its own or that I forced my dogs to sleep on carpet for 3 weeks before realizing that might not be best for them. Would my results be any different if I used a combination of topicals, had the availability of a cooling mat given the AZ heat, did a better job of reducing friction on my boys’ elbows, or fed an entirely raw diet?

What if I had started lubricating these areas when Junior and Sulley were much younger, before they ever formed a callus?  And, everyone’s favorite topic, what role do genetics play in an individual dog’s predisposition for calluses?

These, of course, are rhetorical questions.  I don’t know the answers and my guess is you don’t either.

So here’s my perspective.  Elbow and hock calluses in big dogs don’t HAVE to be inevitable.  I may not be able to completely heal what is already there, but I can certainly try to prevent them from worsening or causing issues in the future.  I am not willing to give up the fight just yet.  Stay tuned to Big Dog Mom for the SEQUEL to my battle against this coarse and resolute foe.

Have you struggled with calluses on your big dog?  What steps have you taken to treat or prevent them?  I would love to hear your experience in the comments below.  Because calluses are such a widespread problem in big dogs, please consider sharing this with your friends using the buttons below.

Big Dog Calluses: Are They Inevitable Or Preventable? ultima modifica: 2017-08-28T10:16:20+00:00 da BigDogMom
Calluses are ubiquitous in the BIG DOG world, with most succumbing as they age.  Must we, as dog owners, accept this fate? Or can we take action today? #elbowcallus #elbowcallusdog Elbow Callus / Elbow Callus Dog / Calluses on Dogs / Callus