Thursday, July 28, 2011

Dog Health: Preventing and Treating Calluses

By Linda Cole

If your dog is anything like mine, he probably prefers snoozing on the couch or on a comfy chair rather than on the floor. I don't mind sharing the couch with my dogs, because the softer padding helps protect them from developing calluses. Dogs can get calluses on their elbows and other areas of the body, just like we get them on our feet or hands. They aren't life threatening and usually don't bother the dog, but they can become a problem if they turn into sores. If you see gray, bare spots on your dog's elbow, those are calluses. These can be prevented and treated.

Calluses form on a dog's elbows, hips, and other areas of the body when the dog sleeps on hard surfaces – basically any place on their body where they are resting on a bony area. Calluses are sometimes called pressure sores and can turn into an abscess or an ulcer. Larger dogs are more susceptible to developing calluses, but any dog that spends too much time sleeping or laying on a hard surface can get them.

Summer is a prime time for dogs to develop calluses because they seek out the coolest area they can find to take a snooze. Cement located under a shade tree is a favorite resting spot because the cool surface feels good to them. Shaded decks and tile blocks are also great places to lie on during the summer. Dogs that pick hard surfaces to sleep on should have their elbows, hips and legs inspected regularly.

Calluses can easily be prevented by providing your dog with soft bedding to sleep on. However, dogs aren't always cooperative and most have a mind of their own when it comes to snoozing where they want to, especially when it's hot. Dogs that spend a lot of time outside may find a cooling bed to their liking, and even inside dogs can benefit from this type of bed instead of sleeping on a hard surface all the time. Cooling beds are filled with water and as long as you keep it out of the sun, it will help keep your dog cooler and help prevent the development of calluses. Any type of raised bed will work as long as your dog finds it comfortable and cool. I set up some old beach lounge chairs my dogs like to sleep on when they're outside for an extended time during the summer.

Some dogs will flop down on the floor or on any surface, even cement, and the pressure on the skin over a bony area can be damaged with repeated bumps to these areas. As long as the calluses don't turn into pressure sores or more serious problems, like an ulcer or an abscess, calluses aren't a problem. But you should always keep an eye on any skin condition to make sure it doesn't get worse.

Older dogs or dogs with medical problems that lay in one spot for long periods of time can develop bedsores. Lying down for too long in one spot can cause the skin to lose normal circulation and the skin cells die. These types of sores can be really hard to treat; they are painful for the dog and can easily become infected. Older and sick dogs should definitely have a soft surface to sleep on, and they should be encouraged to move every 30 minutes or so to help prevent bedsores from developing.

Calluses can be treated with liquid vitamin E to help soften the skin. The vitamin E will also help heal the skin and allow the hair to grow back. A word of warning about vitamin E – it's greasy and you won't want your dog on your good furniture because it will leave a stain. Try not to let him lick the area where you applied the vitamin E. It won't hurt him if he does lick it, but the licking isn't good for his skin. However, when in doubt it’s always wise to discuss your dog's health with your vet before using any kind of over-the- counter medications or supplements.

If your dog has developed calluses, keep an eye on them to make sure they don't turn into sores. If your dog appears to be in pain when lying down, standing up or when walking, you should make an appointment with your vet for professional advice. Most of the time a callus is nothing to be concerned about and with a watchful eye and soft bedding to sleep on, your dog can be comfy and free of bare spots on his elbows.

Photo by Meredith Harris

Read more articles by Linda Cole


  1. That is some good info. I probably need to make my old dog move around more so she doesn't get any bed sores or calluses. The younger one spends the day moving around. Good to know about the Vitamin E stuff. Thanks

  2. Instead of using vitamin E oil, I have had excellent luck with Desitin baby ointment. It is very concentrated and a fish oil base. Rubbed in thoroughly it does not make a mess. I first used it on a customer's GSD with horribly callused elbows. In spite of sleeping on a pile of blankets, his elbows were bloody AM/PM. I started him on the Desitin and the next day, no more bleeding. By the time he went home his elbows were as soft as kid gloves. The calluses were there to stay, but now they were soft and no longer bleeding.

  3. Good tip, Mom didn't know about the Vitamin E tip, but makes sense. The desitin would be good too. Mom uses plain old Vaseline on her feet:)

    Woos ~ Phantom, Thunder, and Ciara

  4. I love that picture. :) Floppy, sleepy dog.

  5. Our late rescue had huge calluses on his elbows when he came to us. Over time they softened up and shrunk a bit.

    Comfortable bedding certainly helps. Jasmine just turned 8 and she doesn't have any calluses at all. Interestingly, she started developing them couple years back from laying on hardwood floor. After her knee injury there is not more bare floor anywhere, plus she got special beds (and of course can use ours or the couch as she pleases) and the calluses disappeared and never came back.

  6. Hi Linda, can you help, do you know the strap support used for callus protection for dogs? I don't know what it's called but I'm seeing pictures of dogs wearing those.

    1. Hi,

      What you're looking for is called a hock sock. They are made by DogLeggs.

      You can find them online, so check around because you can find them at different prices.


  7. Provide your dog with soft areas to rest and sleep. I observed that my dog calluses developed due to lying most of the time on hard surfaces in the house. Also, provide them with soft clothing and bedding's. I got mine from 4-Legged.


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