Informed Dog Parents: Canine Hygromas, Calluses, and Growths Explained

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Man’s best friend (and woman’s) what’s not to love about dogs.  They offer people unique, loving, and desired loyal companionship.  As such it is our duty, to them, to be hyper-vigilant when it comes to their health and needs.  And our dogs depend on us to take good care of them, in return for their loyalty. 

This article offers a thorough examination of three common canine conditions: hygromas, calluses, and elbow growths.  Finally, you can know exactly what that thing is on your dog, impress your peers with your knowledge, more importantly, have the knowledge on how you can best care for your doggo. 

Come and explore the etiology, clinical manifestations, diagnostic methods, treatment options, preventive measures, and relevant statistics associated with each condition.  The information presented is based on an in-depth analysis of existing literature, scholarly journals, and expert opinions.

1. Introduction:

Canine hygromas, calluses, and elbow growths are dermatological conditions frequently observed in dogs.  Hygromas are bulbous fluid-filled swellings that develop over bony prominences due to repeated trauma, and generally non-painful.  While calluses result from chronic pressure and friction on weight-bearing areas.  Elbow growths encompass various benign or malignant masses that may arise in the elbow region. 

In addition, growths sucks as mast cell tumors, lymphomas, papillomas, and histiocytomas, can grow on just about any part of the body.  Any lump found by you, their dog-parent, requires expert consultation; it may be benign, or it may be malignant, but asking your vet questions about them is always the right answer.

canine hygromas on elbow

2. Etiology:

Hygromas typically occur when dogs repeatedly lie on hard surfaces, leading to chronic pressure and inflammation.  The area most often affected and seen in dogs is the area over the olecranon or elbow.  The cause of hygroma development is relatively straight forward, the dog frequently rest and lays on hard surfaces.  This causes tissue damage to occur, from the repetitive pressure from the dog’s weight.  This prevents the area from healing, thus causing the dog’s body to create a fluid filled “cushion,” under the skin. 

Calluses on the other hand, form on top of the skin, and is the protective response to long-term pressure and friction on weight-bearing areas.  Hygromas are not the same as a callus; however, Hygromas are often mistaken as for a callus.  Lastly, elbow growths, that were ruled out as hygroma vs callus, can have various causes.  Hygromas are not tumors and more often than not are totally benign, with cosmetic appearance being the complication to the owner.  These causes include a genetic predisposition, trauma, inflammation, or neoplastic growth. 

3. Signs and Symptoms:

Hygromas present as various sized fluid-filled, soft swellings over bony prominences, such as the elbows; but are under the skin.  Sometimes, Hygromas can be accompanied by hair loss, inflammation, and sometimes ulceration.  However, it is worth noting that calluses usually always appear as bald hairless patches of thickened discolored skin, usually on the elbows or other pressure points.  Elbow growths can manifest as firm masses, both movable or immovable lumps, ranging from benign nodules to cancerous tumors.

4. Diagnosis:

Diagnosing hygromas, calluses, and elbow growths involves a thorough physical examination, including palpation, assessment of skin lesions, and evaluation of the affected area.  The owner knows best, you pet your dog daily, constantly, and always; dogs can’t tell you they have a lump affecting their jaw, you should know your Dog’s body like the back of your hand. 

If you leave a hygroma or lump unnoticed or untreated, this may lead to metastasis or an infection.  A Hygroma Infection can display signs of inflamed hair follicles and or blackheads around the site, with or without fluid drainage.  This chronic inflammation may further exacerbate and lead to other diagnoses like: abscess, ulcerations, fissures, and granulomas; all of which require surgical drainage.  Some circumstances, imaging techniques like X-rays or ultrasound may be necessary to determine the extent of the condition.  As well, biopsies may be performed to evaluate growths and differentiate between benign and malignant masses.

5. Treatment:

Treatment approaches for hygromas focus on reducing pressure on the affected area and promoting healing.  This may involve providing soft bedding, using elbow pads or specialized bandages, and implementing lifestyle modifications to prevent further trauma.  In cases of infection or severe inflammation, drainage, cleaning, and antibiotic therapy may be necessary.  Calluses can be managed through regular application of moisturizer like PawsnBoots serums, also, additional padding, and protective measures for your dog.  Elbow growths may require surgical removal, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy, depending on the nature and extent of the mass.  In any case, all diagnoses should be made by a board certified and approved veterinarian.

a wrapped elbow callus on dog's leg

6. Prevention:

Preventive measures for hygromas, calluses, and elbow growths involve providing appropriate bedding and cushioning for dogs and regular application of skin moisturizers, such as PawsnBoots line of Paw and Skin Serums.  Regularly inspecting pressure points and addressing any signs of irritation can help prevent the development of calluses.  Additionally, routine veterinary check-ups can aid in the early detection and management of elbow growths/all growths.

7. Statistics:

These conditions are commonly observed in large and giant breed dogs and dog’s with heavy body weights or certain anatomical conformations.  Such examples are; German Shepherds, Labs, Mastiffs, Rottweilers, Great Danes, and Pyrenees.  Factors such as age, gender, and genetic predisposition may also play a role in their development.  As you can imagine, under normal circumstances, the smaller and lighter the dog is, then the lower their risk is to hygrometer development.


Hygromas, calluses, and growths are common dermatological conditions in dogs, often arising from repeated trauma, pressure, or other underlying factors.  Understanding their etiology, clinical manifestations, diagnosis, and treatment options is crucial for effective management.  However, by implementing preventive measures like moisturizing and seeking veterinary care, when necessary, dog owners can minimize discomfort and improve the overall well-being of their pets.