A Note On Elbow Calluses

Elbow calluses are defined as gray, hairless, wrinkled patches of thickened skin at the bony pressure points (outside the elbows). They can develop elsewhere also, but elbows are the most common location. They are quite common, particularly in larger dogs.

If you look it up, you'll find it says that elbow calluses are caused by lying on a hard surface.  

Bruin's calluses looked like this, except way thicker. Image: Better Beds For Gun Dogs

The Dictionary of Veterinary Terms says that calluses develop in response to repeated irritation. You know, calluses, we all had one at one point or another.

Elbow calluses are generally harmless, though they can develop into an ulcer or an abscess.

Remedy for a developing callus is to provide soft, comfortable bedding (provided that your dog will actually use it, as dogs might prefer hard floor to cool themselves, for example).

When our late rescue, Bruin, came to us, he had calluses almost the size of my fist, and very hard. They did soften and shrink somewhat over time.

When Jasmine started losing fur on her left elbow, I was concerned it might be an infection of sorts.

It didn't ooze or smell in any way but I thought it was strange that it was happening on the one elbow only. So the next time we were at the vet's, I asked him to check it out.

The vet checked out and said it was a developing elbow callus.

I was glad it was not an infection but found it curious why she would develop one in the first place, and why just on the one elbow. She has a variety of comfy beds to choose from, we have carpeting and rugs everywhere ever since her first knee injury, and she spends most of the time resting on her cooling bed. She does spend SOME time laying on the ground when at the horse farm, but I didn't think that could have been enough to cause a callus.

Here is the interesting bit. The vet said that short pile carpets are the worst, and most likely to lead to elbow calluses.

Worse than hardwood floor, worse that concrete, worse than any other surface.


OK, fine, but Jasmine hardly ever rests on the actual floor ...? And it still wouldn't explain why just the one elbow ...? I started paying more attention and then the mystery unraveled itself.

Yes, Jasmine spends vast majority of her time on the cooling bed.

But with closer observation, we found out that most of that time she'll lay on it with the left elbow OFF the bed and on the [short pile] carpet.


The vet suggested raising the bed. It is a water bed after all, though. If we made a hard platform, it would be just another obstacle to kick or trip over (if not for the dogs, than for hubby for sure). If we put something soft under it, I'm sure the bed wouldn't like that.

The solution lied in the understanding of the problem.

It was not necessarily the hardness, but the friction what was the culprit.

The friction is what would make a short pile carpet worse than bare floor.

We got a soft blanket, and placed it underneath the cooling bed so it would cover quite a large area around the bed also.

Not much of a decorating statement but it certainly did the trick. The hardness is pretty much the same but the friction is substantially reduced.

Jasmine's callus is gone, the fur has grown back, the elbow looks as good as new.

OK, it's nothing groundbreaking, but I thought it was quite interesting. Certainly something that wouldn't have occurred to us.

Short pile carpet is the elbow's primary enemy.

Who would have thunk?


  1. I never thought of that! (short pile carpet) My Lucy had elbow calluses - she preferred laying on the floor most of her life, at least until later years when all the dog beds began to look good to her.

    1. Yeah, it was the first time I heard of that. And it clearly was correct.

      Jasmine abandoned floors the moment she got her cooling bed. But for some reason the elbow always ended up being off it.

  2. Wow. Short pile carpet. I would have never thought of that. Great investigative powers you have! Thanks for sharing.

  3. Hmm! Very interesting indeed! Sherman has calluses too, he mostly lays on hard surfaces but we do have short pile carpet that he occasionally lays on! So interesting!

    1. It is, isn't it? And a note, Bruin, before he ended up in a shelter and eventually with us, he spent his life having to lay on a "mat" in a hallway. His calluses were humongous.

  4. Oh, how funny that she would just leave one elbow off! Dogs can be odd sometimes.

    1. I'm sure she has a reason. Just don't know what it would be :-)

  5. SO interesting! Cali has them too, and I thought it was from laying on the linoleum in the kitchen. I'll have to pay more attention now!!

  6. Huh, I certainly would not have guessed that. When I first saw the picture I assumed the callus was caused by laying on the hard ground, not by a well-loved dog laying on her expensive cooling bed with one leg hanging off. That'll teach me to keep my judgmental side in check.

    I am glad it was a problem easily solved and her elbow is healed!

    1. Kristine, the photo is not of Jasmine, actually, hers never got to get big because we did make the adjustments I described. If hers was that large it would have taken quite a while to resolve.

      Bruin had ones that were much bigger. His never went completely away.

      So yes, it does take a while for a callus develop to this size. It can, however, be an indoor dog, laying on a short pile carpet.

  7. Yes, Ace has the elbow callouses as well. He spends most his time on his dog bed.

  8. Thanks! Good info for our Momoko...both elbows from her preferred concrete spots! Running out for some elbow butter or salve today.


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