My Dogs Elbow Pads Are Bleeding – What Should I Do?

Dogs’ elbow pads bleed for several reasons. Pyoderma, hygroma, and dermatitis are all possible reasons. However, the most common reason dog elbow pads bleed is due to calluses. As the callus becomes dry, it will cause the skin to split open and bleed.

Below are the reasons why your dog’s elbow may be bleeding, how to treat it, and how to keep it from happening again.

Remember to check with your vet if the dog is bleeding profusely, is in pain, or if the wound seems to be infected.

Common Causes and Treatments

The following are some common reasons why dogs’ elbows bleed and how to treat the issue.


By far, the most common reason for a bleeding elbow in a dog is because a callus developed on the elbow and thickened to the point of splitting open.

Calluses are hard and crusty patches where the hair is missing and are usually dark and scaly. They form for the same reasons that humans get them – repeated friction against a rough surface.

Larger breeds and overweight dogs are more prone to calluses since their weight causes more pressure against the surface they’re resting on.

Dogs with short hair are also at higher risk for developing calluses since their coat offers less protection than in fluffier dogs.

Calluses tend to be worse in the summer when dogs are more likely to lie on tile floors to cool off rather than soft bedding.

If your dog’s callus has already cracked, apply a pain-relieving antiseptic spray to it followed by a moisturizing balm. Keep it clean and moisturized while it heals.

If the callus looks infected or does not show marked improvement in a few days, call your vet for advice.


Pyoderma, often found in conjunction with split calluses, is a bacterial infection that happens when an opening in the skin allows bacteria to get inside.

This is often caused by scratching or licking a wound and will take antibiotics to recover from.

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This is just one example of why it’s important to pay attention to signs, such as scratching and biting, that your dog needs care.

If you can treat the reason behind the itchiness, you can prevent pyoderma from complicating things even further.


A hygroma is a fluid-filled sac under the skin, often found in places of the body where a bone protrudes near the skin’s surface.

It’s caused by repeated trauma and looks like a raised bump under the skin. Typically, there will be no discoloration unless it becomes infected.

Like calluses, hygromas are common in older and heavier dogs who lay around a good deal of the day.

If a hygroma does become infected, it will split open and begin to leak yellow or red pus. At this point, it will become quite painful for the dog.

Hygromas often go away on their own in 2-3 weeks, but if they don’t, they’re liable to become infected and painful.

If your dog has a hygroma that doesn’t seem to be going away or is leaking, call your vet. They may need to drain it and provide an antibiotic.


Of course, if your dog sustained an injury that’s causing bleeding, you’re likely to be aware that that’s the case.

However, if your dog frequently plays outside with other dogs unsupervised, he could be bleeding due to injury.

This is especially likely if the bleeding started suddenly, and he’s limping or showing signs of pain.

If this is the case, do what you can to figure out how the injury happened and provide all relevant details to your vet right away.


Dermatitis is a catch-all term that means skin irritation. It can be caused by allergies, dry skin, skin pests, and several other factors.

If your dog’s skin is itchy, he’s going to scratch and lick or bite it to relieve his discomfort.

Unfortunately, if this goes on for an extended period, he may overdo it and break the skin, causing bleeding.

If your dog is scratching or biting regularly, make sure to keep an eye on the area and try to figure out the cause behind it. This may involve getting him allergy medication, treating him for skin pests, or changing to a milder shampoo, among other things.

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Preventing Elbow Bleeding

More important than knowing how to treat a dog with a bleeding elbow is knowing how to prevent them from bleeding in the first place.

Check Regularly

Dog owners should check their dogs regularly for signs of skin issues, including irritated patches, cysts, and calluses.

The sooner you discover a problem, the easier it is to treat before it becomes a worse issue.

Maintain Healthy Weight

Maintaining a healthy weight in dogs is essential for their overall health, but it can also prevent calluses and other injuries caused by impact.

The less weight a dog is resting on the ground, the less pressure and friction there will be, reducing the chances of both calluses and hygromas.

Moisturizing Balm

If you notice your dog getting calluses, use a moisturizing balm on them right away to keep them from getting worse and cracking.

You can use store-bought balms made just for this purpose, or use homemade remedies. Whichever you choose, make sure the ingredients are non-toxic to dogs.

Some of our favorites are:

  • Store-bought cream or balm made for dogs’ skin
  • Petroleum jelly
  • Vitamin E oil
  • Coconut oil

You may need to try a few things before you find one that works and one that your dog won’t immediately lick off.

Putting the balm on just before mealtime or taking a walk may provide enough time that the dog is too distracted to lick it off.

Provide Soft Surfaces

Ensure your dog has soft places to lie down, both a bed for sleeping and a carpet or blanket for lounging.

The less time he spends lying directly on floors or concrete, the more quickly his calluses will heal.

Callus Prevention Sleeves

Some people swear by store-bought callus prevention pads and sleeves for dogs, which protect the dog’s elbow from coming into contact with the offending hard surface.

Other people have luck using homemade methods such as bandanas tied around the joint.

Whichever you choose, make sure it’s neither too tight nor too loose, or the sleeve or bandana might itself cause more friction and pressure and make things worse.

Get Allergies in Check

As mentioned above, dogs with allergies can end up with skin conditions. And just like humans, they can be allergic to several different things.

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If your dog has signs of allergies, such as watery eyes and nose, and frequent itching, work with your vet to determine the cause and the best course of treatment.

It’s best to treat the allergies before causing further issues, like skin infections from frequent scratching.

Prevent Pests

Skin pests such as fleas, mites, and ticks can cause itching and biting, just like allergies. This can get bad enough that the dog will bleed, opening it up to a host of other problems.

Prevent the situation by controlling pests before they start, by keeping a clear yard, doing frequent house cleaning, and using flea and tick shampoo.

When to Call the Vet

Any time your dog seems to be in pain, is bleeding, or showing signs of infection, such as wound discoloration or pus, it’s a good idea to call your vet.

Even if the vet doesn’t think you need to schedule an appointment, they can best advise you about a course of treatment. The vet will also be able to give you more signs to look out for, so you know if what you’re doing is working or not.

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