Elbow Hygroma In Dogs

As we age, you may have learned about hygromas in humans. It normally stars with a redness lump in one's wrist, and matures into a joint inflammation that forms a ball-shaped lump. There are actually treatments available, which can provide a full recovery. However, leaving a hygroma unattended can lead to intense swelling. The stress on the surrounding skin can produce an open wound, and therefore more liable to infection. But what about this condition in dogs?

Elbows versus Wrists

In dogs, hygromas appear in the elbow versus the wrist.  It is more commonly seen in short-haired, such as Labrador retrievers, German shepherds, mastiffs, and Great Danes. The condition arises when these dogs repeatedly lay on hard surfaces, such as hardwood floors, tile or concrete.

In an attempt to protect the inflammatory tissue,  elbow fluid is encapsulated that cushions the joint. However, over time, with the same repeated trauma action of resting on his/her elbows, this fluid-filled capsule will continue to grow and worsen.


According to a Spruce Pets report, it's an unfortunate catch-22 that the body's built-in safeguard can actually cause the condition to fester. While a hygroma, regardless of size, is non-painful, if allowed to become large enough to the point of ulceration and abscessing, one's canine may begin to experience more and more pain over time.


There are several forms of treatment, dependent on the severity of the hygroma. When detected while still small, simply adding soft, padded bedding (comforters or egg-crate foam mattress toppers) to your dog's favorite resting spot may be enough.

A Caldera Wrap is a patented therapy wrap that will deliver hot or cold therapy to the hygroma. It's velcro-straps and adjustable quick buckle system makes the device easy to apply and secure in place.

There are also braces, some custom-made, through companies like Dog Leggs, Balto Orthopedic Braces for Pets, and Ortho Pets that can help prevent the progression and abscessation of hygromas. A veterinarian can determine which brace would be the most beneficial.

In more severe cases, if the hygroma grows to a size that is not manageable through the above conservative treatment methods, draining the fluid off and/or surgical removal of the hygroma may be the best option. It should be noted, though, that draining, and removal does not guarantee that the hygroma won't recur at a future date.

Words to the wise . . .

If you become aware of a growth on your dog, no matter how small or inconsequential, it may seem to you, it's important to have the vet make a determination. They will discuss with you a treatment plan, and the need for frequent follow-up appointments. Working closely with a vet will ensure that your pet is treated properly and promptly.


Primary Source: The Spruce Pets




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