You Make The Diganosis: Thickened Skin Over Dog’s Elbow

Pictured below is a close up of an abnormal patch of skin on a dog’s elbow. As you can see, the skin is rough, thickened and pigmented which means dark in color. The lesion started small and slowly developed into what is pictured below.  This dog has these lesions on both elbows.  What is it?

Diagnosis: Elbow Callus

Although the skin in this picture looks bad, it is a non-cancerous elbow callus. Calluses develop over pressure points such as elbows, hips and hocks. They are usually bilateral as in this dog. People often confuse this with a melanoma because of the black color. Calluses may be pink or black depending upon the absence or presence of pigment in the dermal cells. Since this dog is a German shepherd mix, it has dark skin with lots of pigment.

On occasion, I have seen calluses crack and bleed. To prevent this, I recommend applying a moisturizing lotion to the callus and then taking the dog for a walk before they can lick it off. I am not a big fan of using creams to dissolve calluses in dogs as it seems painful. One of my patients tried to chew the entire callus off after the second dose of a dissolving cream. Instead, I place a moist, warm towel over the area to soften the callus then rub off the excess keratin with a towel.

Published by kristennelsondvm

Dr. Kristen Nelson grew up on a farm in Watertown, Minn., where she developed a deep love for animals of all kinds. She received a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Minnesota, College of Veterinary Medicine. Kris then completed a small-animal internship at the prestigious Animal Medical Center in New York City. In addition to writing and speaking, she cares for small and exotic animals in Scottsdale, Az. Dr. Nelson is widely quoted in the media. Her credits include Ladies’ Home Journal, USA TODAY, the Los Angeles Times and numerous radio and television interviews. Dr. Nelson has written two books, Coated With Fur: A Vet’s Life and Coated With Fur: A Blind Cat’s Love. Kris and her husband Steve share their home with rescued cats, birds and a dog.