Dog Health: Preventing and Treating Calluses

July 28, 2011

By Linda Cole

If your dog is anything like mine, he probably prefers snoozing on the couch or on a comfy chair rather than on the floor. I don’t mind sharing the couch with my dogs, because the softer padding helps protect them from developing calluses. Dogs can get calluses on their elbows and other areas of the body, just like we get them on our feet or hands. They aren’t life threatening and usually don’t bother the dog, but they can become a problem if they turn into sores. If you see gray, bare spots on your dog’s elbow, those are calluses. These can be prevented and treated.

Calluses form on a dog’s elbows, hips, and other areas of the body when the dog sleeps on hard surfaces – basically any place on their body where they are resting on a bony area. Calluses are sometimes called pressure sores and can turn into an abscess or an ulcer. Larger dogs are more susceptible to developing calluses, but any dog that spends too much time sleeping or laying on a hard surface can get them.

Summer is a prime time for dogs to develop calluses because they seek out the coolest area they can find to take a snooze. Cement located under a shade tree is a favorite resting spot because the cool surface feels good to them. Shaded decks and tile blocks are also great places to lie on during the summer. Dogs that pick hard surfaces to sleep on should have their elbows, hips and legs inspected regularly.

Calluses can easily be prevented by providing your dog with soft bedding to sleep on. However, dogs aren’t always cooperative and most have a mind of their own when it comes to snoozing where they want to, especially when it’s hot. Dogs that spend a lot of time outside may find a cooling bed to their liking, and even inside dogs can benefit from this type of bed instead of sleeping on a hard surface all the time. Cooling beds are filled with water and as long as you keep it out of the sun, it will help keep your dog cooler and help prevent the development of calluses. Any type of raised bed will work as long as your dog finds it comfortable and cool. I set up some old beach lounge chairs my dogs like to sleep on when they’re outside for an extended time during the summer.

Some dogs will flop down on the floor or on any surface, even cement, and the pressure on the skin over a bony area can be damaged with repeated bumps to these areas. As long as the calluses don’t turn into pressure sores or more serious problems, like an ulcer or an abscess, calluses aren’t a problem. But you should always keep an eye on any skin condition to make sure it doesn’t get worse.

Older dogs or dogs with medical problems that lay in one spot for long periods of time can develop bedsores. Lying down for too long in one spot can cause the skin to lose normal circulation and the skin cells die. These types of sores can be really hard to treat; they are painful for the dog and can easily become infected. Older and sick dogs should definitely have a soft surface to sleep on, and they should be encouraged to move every 30 minutes or so to help prevent bedsores from developing.

Calluses can be treated with liquid vitamin E to help soften the skin. The vitamin E will also help heal the skin and allow the hair to grow back. A word of warning about vitamin E – it’s greasy and you won’t want your dog on your good furniture because it will leave a stain. Try not to let him lick the area where you applied the vitamin E. It won’t hurt him if he does lick it, but the licking isn’t good for his skin. However, when in doubt it’s always wise to discuss your dog’s health with your vet before using any kind of over-the- counter medications or supplements.

If your dog has developed calluses, keep an eye on them to make sure they don’t turn into sores. If your dog appears to be in pain when lying down, standing up or when walking, you should make an appointment with your vet for professional advice. Most of the time a callus is nothing to be concerned about and with a watchful eye and soft bedding to sleep on, your dog can be comfy and free of bare spots on his elbows.

Photo by Meredith Harris

Read more articles by Linda Cole

The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® Pet Foods.

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  1. Jancie says:

    Can mint chapstick be used on dogs for very calloused pads?

  2. Michelle V says:

    I recently discovered that my 3 year old black lab’s elbows are starting to callus. I also noticed that she has what looks like a pimple on one. Should I try the vitamin E oil on her elbows or start of with desitin.

    1. Kaitlin Ness-Leclair says:

      Vitamin e is safe for animals but Desitin is made for humans and contains many chemicals that are not safe for ingestion and may not even be safe to use topically. I believe it may also contain cod liver oil which would pretty well assure any dog would lick it.
      I highly recommend NOT using Desitin or any other human products on any animal! Even natural products intended for humans can be unsafe for animals as our species have different sensitivities.

  3. Have three mini dachshunds of my own and they are a blessing to me everyday. They cry when I leave the house for my doctor appointments,or any time I leave the house. And they bark and carry on when I come home.they are there for me all the time. Wouldn’t know what i would do without them.

  4. Rachel says:

    My almost 13 collie/GSD cross developed one callus on his left elbow. He alternates lying on his beds (there’s one in EVERY room downstairs), the bathmat, and the different hard flooring as I think his ribs have arthritis and the firm surfaces help that (yep on three meds for same). I put on shea butter with almond milk cream on the area and the hair is coming back. I think it will be a constant battle but worth it. He doesn’t lick if I say not to. GOOD DOG!

  5. nan says:

    This may not work for every dog – baby socks from the dollar store.
    they come is different sizes- cut off the toe – i put vaseline on a folded
    piece of paper towel and place on the elbow – pull up the sock and the elbow is padded and the valentine softens that bald patch

    1. Carmen says:

      What a brilliant idea Thanks!

    2. Angel says:

      What type of vaseline and does the hair grows back?

  6. Lee Wakamatsu says:

    Hello, I have a dog who is 10 years old and has developed an open wound on his elbow which used to be a blackish callus. I took him to the vet and he applied topical antibiotic and bandaged him up. The dog was prescribed 40 capsules of keflex 500mg bid. We didn’t get a cone since in the past the dog who weighs 100 lbs just gets around the cone. We tried a long sleeve t-shirt which didn’t last the nite. We got a cone which didn’t keep the bandages on. We contacted and purchased a really nice over the shoulder wrap around the chest preventive bandage covering. We also purchased another similar apparatus from another manufacturer. Both of these did not prevent my dog from gnawing off the bandages. After a month of effort and the ulcer is just as open and oozing. I talked to the vet and discussed surgery to close the wound. The vet has been investigating exactly how to do this for over a week. I need to find a vet who is experienced in these ulcers with a solution. If you can refer me I certainly would appreciate it. I will contact this person if I could get a name. Thank you,

    1. terry thometz says:

      I have despaired over the same problem and finally bought a harness and using zip ties and socks with the toes cut off, attached cuffs to the harness to pad his elbows. It does look insane but it works. I use three layers of socks and then slip a tefla pad saturated with neosporin under the cuff, next to his elbow. Vaseline works too. I’ve also created a padded room for him. It’s a bitch of a problem.

      1. LOL Terry, That’s funny. I’m thinking the paded room is what it may take for my GSD. Thanks for the laugh.

    2. DogLover says:

      Slug Glue – just heard it on the news

    3. Valerie A. Jackson says:

      Lee Wakamatsu,
      I know this is an old post but my 10+ year old German Shepherd has very nasty red open callus on right elbow and a dark closed one on left. Brought to Vet and she recommended putting athletic sock over and ordered a strong antibiotic. Equivalent to a human bedsore she said. I ordered a “Callus Cuff” from which I received a few days ago. Please, can you give me any pointers on treating this? It is very bad. Thank you.

  7. Johanna Athas says:

    Our 4-1/2-year-old English black Lab CONSTANTLY gets these on both of his elbows. Our two goldens and our Saint Bernard never get them. For some reason, it’s only him. We put a soft pad down in his crate to lay on when he is in there, but he always pushes it out of the way and prefers to lay on just the hard plastic surface of the crate. He also has a huge, soft orthopedic dog bed, but he only occasionally uses it. Most of the time, he prefers to lay on the hardwood or tile floors. So frustrating! I just started applying some Bag Balm on his elbows every day to see if that will help soften up the skin on his elbows to allow the hair to start growing back. Fingers crossed.

  8. I’ve had many large dogs, but none have had as many issues with calluses as do my goldens. I’ll have to try the Vitamin E. I’ve used other store bought products, but they have yet to work.

  9. Christian says:

    i always thought the callouses were natural for big dogs to have, truthfully they are natural. A few years ago i was bathing my dogs with Tea Tree and Aloe Earthbath soap and i noticed the callouses began to flake off so each time i bathed them i would scour the pads on their elbows with soap using my fingernails. After several weeks of treatment their elbows had completely healed. We did not see the recurrence of any callouses. You do not need to go out of your way in providing all kids of comfy bedding for them to lay on. The callouses do not develop strictly based on constant pressure. The environment of their elbows, all around, is filled with many factors that contribute to a callous buildup. Simply wiping their elbows every few days with a cotton swab saturated with tea tree oil has been working here in returning their elbows back to a nice, vibrant, and plush original state. We literally scrub their callouses with the swab. We saw slight bleeding here and there due to trauma initially caused by the tea tree on the callous because what We are treating is not exactly a callous. There is something else, mitish?, going on there. i have not tried this next method i Am suggesting but i suspect that if you alternate between applying tea tree oil and aloe vera gel the results may hastily push toward a speedy recovery. In retrospect, apply tea tree oil one day and then aloe vera gel the next day and continue this process alternating between the two solutions every day until healed.

    1. Kimber Lee says:

      I’ve read that Aloe is toxic to dogs.

  10. Tom Grand says:

    Provide your dog with soft areas to rest and sleep. I observed that my dog calluses developed due to lying most of the time on hard surfaces in the house. Also, provide them with soft clothing and bedding's. I got mine from 4-Legged.

  11. Hi Linda, can you help, do you know the strap support used for callus protection for dogs? I don’t know what it’s called but I’m seeing pictures of dogs wearing those.

    1. Linda says:


      What you’re looking for is called a hock sock. They are made by DogLeggs.

      You can find them online, so check around because you can find them at different prices.


  12. Jana Rade says:

    Our late rescue had huge calluses on his elbows when he came to us. Over time they softened up and shrunk a bit.

    Comfortable bedding certainly helps. Jasmine just turned 8 and she doesn’t have any calluses at all. Interestingly, she started developing them couple years back from laying on hardwood floor. After her knee injury there is not more bare floor anywhere, plus she got special beds (and of course can use ours or the couch as she pleases) and the calluses disappeared and never came back.

  13. Alyssa S says:

    I love that picture. 🙂 Floppy, sleepy dog.

  14. Good tip, Mom didn’t know about the Vitamin E tip, but makes sense. The desitin would be good too. Mom uses plain old Vaseline on her feet:)

    Woos ~ Phantom, Thunder, and Ciara

  15. Linda S. says:

    Instead of using vitamin E oil, I have had excellent luck with Desitin baby ointment. It is very concentrated and a fish oil base. Rubbed in thoroughly it does not make a mess. I first used it on a customer’s GSD with horribly callused elbows. In spite of sleeping on a pile of blankets, his elbows were bloody AM/PM. I started him on the Desitin and the next day, no more bleeding. By the time he went home his elbows were as soft as kid gloves. The calluses were there to stay, but now they were soft and no longer bleeding.

  16. Marg says:

    That is some good info. I probably need to make my old dog move around more so she doesn’t get any bed sores or calluses. The younger one spends the day moving around. Good to know about the Vitamin E stuff. Thanks