Elbow pressure sores in dogs are common among large breeds, and canine amputees with a missing front limb are especially susceptible. These scaly, dark patches look and feel like a simple callous but they can be much more serious and expensive to treat.
What’s a Hygroma Pressure Sore?
Known as hygromas, the dark, fluid filled pockets are caused by a dog’s elbows repeatedly making contact with hard flooring surfaces.
Since heavier dogs make harder contact with the floor than smaller ones, they tend to be get hygromas more often. Infection from the fluid inside can spread throughout the body quickly unless proper treatment is sought.
Tripawds vet expert Dr. Wiltzius describes hygromas in this forum post:
“. . . a fluid pocket that builds up on the elbow of large/giant breeds. This is not that common in puppies, but it can occur in any age dog. The cause is inadequate padding/bedding material so it is essentially a pressure sore. It could also be due to a bite wound to the joint. Either way the treatment is drainage, bandaging, and antibiotics. You want to try to avoid surgical removal because the elbow does not heal well.”
In the meantime the elbow must be wrapped and bandaged with enough veterinary medical wrap and padding to prevent further irritation.
Make a DIY Hygroma Elbow Protector
One of the easiest ways to prevent elbow hygromas is to make sure your Tripawd has a good bed, like these recommended dog beds.
But if your dog already has a pressure sore on the elbow, you’ll need to get very good at wrapping with veterinary gauze bandages.
Many Tripawds have dealt with hygromas and treated them succesfully.
Tripawds member etGayle describes her pressure sore and treatment in this forum post:
gayle got a viscious sore on her remaining front elbow, and it got very infected, very quickly. our vet cleaned the area daily with a continuous stream of warm water, then would pack it with antibiotic and table sugar – yes table sugar. i went in faith, as our vet is worth her weight in gold, and this really did get the healing initiated. the sugar helps the area granulate, so there’s an acceptable surface to heal to. the elbow would be wrapped in vet wrap until the next day.
after about a week of treatments, the two sides of the sore were sutured together (very scary, local anesthesia only and gayle was so brave). with the home made elbow guard, we were able to protect the area until it healed. like you, we had soft beds and carpets everywhere – couldn’t figure out how she was bumping the elbow. the only area i could figure was when gayle went under the kitchen table to ‘catch scraps’, as this is tile. i put a 3×5 rug bathroom type rug (rubber on the bottom, so no skid) there, and she continued to heal up perfectly. today, she’s modified her ‘getting down’ and ‘getting up’ to not rely on that point of her remaining front elbow, and the area is just a hairless callous.
If you’re crafty, you can learn how to make the type of elbow protector that helped Gayle overcome her hygroma. In this Downloads blog post, she shares her own successful plans for a home made elbow pad protector using simple materials like packing foam and elastic.
DogLeggs Helps Protect Elbow Sores
For those folks who aren’t so crafty, the DogLeggs company makes veterinarian-recommended elbow pad protectors for amputee dogs.
According to company representatives, a brand new re-design of the DogLeggs product for amputees has just been completed and now DogLeggs fit front leg Tripawds better than ever,
DogLeggs has a helpful web page about hygromas in dogs. The company’s elbow protector product can be worn 24/7 or just while laying down, until the pressure sore is healed. It’s made in the USA with washable, breathable fabric that’s comfortable for your dog to wear.
DogLeggs are one of the fastest ways to help your Tripawd’s elbow sore heal, however pawrents are advised to keep it on three weeks after the sore is healed to ensure that the hygroma won’t return.
Canine Angels to the Rescue
Mary Strauss of Canine Angels has created these Elbow Protector Sleeves.
Read our entire review here in the Tripawds Gear Blog.
Learn More About Hygromas
For those medically-inclined pet pawrents with tough stomachs, this graphic surgical video of veterinarian Dr. Greg removing an elbow hygroma is especially informative as he discusses the reasons and treatment for these sores while operating on one:
Please remember we are not veterinarians.
The information here is not meant to replace professional veterinary assistance.
If you believe your dog has an elbow hygroma, please contact your vet to discuss treatment.