Avoiding and Treating Calluses

The following is a “Pass Along” email from the Retriever Journal.
November 2012
Avoiding and Treating Calluses
by Jillian LaCross

Typically seen on the elbows and sometimes the chest, heels, and hips of older retrievers, calluses are grey, rough, hairless patches of thick skin that develop over the points of bones from the dog spending a lot of time on hard surfaces – tile, wood, concrete, etc. With all the ups and downs of the day, and all the sleeping in between, retriever elbows and heels meet with the floor often. And we all know that calluses are not just for the old or lazy: Hunting retrievers are prone to them, too.

A callus forms due to “chronic trauma and use of the areas,” says Dr. Ben Character, Mobile Veterinary Service, Eutaw, Alabama. “A callus alone is a normal response to chronic irritation of the area and does not need any treatment. Pressure sores (sometime seen on callus areas – but not always since the actual formation of the callus is the body’s way of preventing sores in the first place by toughening the skin) and infected or painful cracks are what benefit from doughnut bandages and other treatments,” continues Dr. Character.

There are a couple things owners can do to help heal split calluses.

Keep the areas protected from additional trauma. Dr. Character says he uses doughnut bandages to keep pressure off the area until it can heal. A doughnut bandage is any bandage that removes pressure from the affected area. (Covering alone – without pressure removal – is only of value to keep an exposed wound clean and is counter-productive if used alone for pressure sores.) Other suggestions I found in my research were cutting off the toes of a child’s sock and slipping it over the affected area on the elbow (held in place by tape or a chord attaching it the sock on the other leg); and attaching self-stick bandages. These suggestions are not recommended by Dr. Character because they do not eliminate pressure from the site.

Apply a balm or ointment. Neosporin, Vaseline, and Bag Balm are some of the options. Aloe, petroleum jelly, and Vitamin E oil are also good choices. These will help keep the calluses pliable (prevent cracking) as well as help with healing. Make sure the area is covered though so that your retriever doesn’t lick it away.

If you notice that a callus is oozing, swollen, or looks very irritated, take your dog to the vet. This can be a sign of infection, which can happen if bacteria enter the cracks in the callus and go down to the live tissue below, says Dr. Character. Oral and/or topical antibiotics may be prescribed. To prevent calluses from forming, Dr. Character recommends keeping the dog on soft terrain. A soft bed or padded blanket can be made available and the dog encouraged to use it as much as possible. Once calluses are present, they won’t really go away, but you can help make your retriever comfortable and prevent the calluses from worsening.Ender

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One Response to “Avoiding and Treating Calluses”

  1. 2 brown dawgs blog (@2browndawgsblog) Says:

    Great tips. Thanks for sharing.

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