Canine anatomy is interesting, being that dogs have many of the same body parts as we humans do. Most know that dogs don’t have fingers or arms, but there’s uncertainty around whether they have elbows.
Dogs do have elbows. Their elbows are located at the back of each front leg (foreleg). The elbow joint is immediately below the shoulder. Dogs do not have elbows on their back legs. That means dogs have 2 elbows in total.
If you want to know more about your dog’s elbows and helpful information to keep them in good shape, then keep on reading.
Do Dogs Have Elbows?
Dogs’ elbows are similar to human elbows in that the elbow joint is immediately below the shoulder. You can easily locate your dogs’ elbows by touching their shoulder and then moving down to the next joint. The joint will protrude past the rest of the foreleg.
The elbow is like a ball and socket, just like yours is. The elbow joint in a dog is the meeting of three bones, including:
When you look at a dog’s body, it may look like there are four elbows, but this is not the case. Dogs have an elbow on each foreleg and a knee on each hindleg. Their knees are not to be confused with their elbows. We’ve written a detailed article on dogs’ knees here.
A well-functioning dog elbow joint is one that fits together correctly. There are three joints that make up the main elbow joint, and these are…
|Name of joint||Description|
|Humeroradial joint||The joint formed between the humerus and the radius|
|Radioulnar joint||The joint formed between the radius and the ulna|
|Humeroulnar joint||The joint formed between the humerus and the ulna|
When these 3 joints are situated correctly, meaning that no bone is dislocated or worn down, the ulna can pivot around the radius and allow the elbow to move.
Elbow problems in dogs
Your dogs’ elbows need to be protected, as there are several elbow problems that can arise, including:
- Dog Elbow Callus
- Elbow Dysplasia
The following sections will examine each of these conditions in detail.
Dog Elbow Calluses
One in five dogs will develop an Elbow Callus during their lifetime. The condition is characterized by the occurrence of the following symptoms:
- Skin thickness on your dog’s elbow;
- Loss of hair on that part of the elbow; and
- Dry, rough skin.
Elbow calluses are not life-threatening when they are treated in the early stages.
Oftentimes, dog Elbow Callus is nothing more than an unattractive skin condition. However, if you do not get your dog treatment, there could be serious consequences.
While any dog can get calluses, your dog could be at a higher than normal risk of calluses if they spend a lot of time on hardwood floors, are a larger dog breed, or have a short coat.
Consequences of untreated Dog Elbow Callus
Dog elbow callus is a relatively low-risk condition, but several complications could occur, like:
- Pain – Elbow calluses are extremely dry by nature. This dryness can cause the skin to crack and bleed. While calluses are not thought to be painful, if they crack and expose the inner tissue, they can cause your dog pain. You may notice that your dog winces when pressure is placed on the callused elbow.
- Infection – If there is any tear in the skin, an infection can develop. Bacteria can enter the dog’s body through the cracked callus and start-up an infection, and if an infection is not treated adequately, life-threatening complications, including death, can occur.
If you notice that your dog has a callus, you should call your vet immediately for treatment advice.
How to remove dog elbow calluses
Some vets approve the use of home remedies to treat elbow calluses, others do not.
Here is a home remedy: moisturize the area by applying Elbow Butter, Vaseline, coconut oil or vitamin e oil. You can apply it directly to your dog’s affected skin. Your dog may have to wear an Elizabethan collar so they don’t lick off what you’ve just applied to the elbow callus.
Here is a recipe for homemade Elbow Butter but if you prefer the pre-made variety, try the Blissful Dog Elbow Butter available on Amazon.com.
If you try these home remedies but don’t see improvement within a week, seek advice from a professional.
How to prevent dog elbow calluses
Encourage your dog to rest on mats, blankets and beds rather than hard floors inside and outside your home, especially concrete.
Canine Elbow Dysplasia
Canine elbow dysplasia is an inherited condition that plagues large dog breeds. It is characterized by structural issues in a dog’s elbow joint. The three bones that make up the elbow don’t always fit together properly. When this occurs, Elbow Dysplasia is present.
Elbow dysplasia is the go-to term for several issues occurring in the elbow joint.
No one knows exactly what causes Elbow Dysplasia to develop, but there are several theories, including:
- A genetic predisposition to elbow problems;
- Dietary causes; and/or
- Trauma to the elbow.
Any dog can develop elbow dysplasia, but the risk is higher in the following breeds:
- Bernese Mountain Dogs;
- Golden Retrievers;
- Labrador Retrievers.
It’s important to know about this condition because it could potentially be debilitating to your dog.
It could take years to get a diagnosis because Elbow Dysplasia often occurs in both elbows. Since you won’t see your dog walking asymmetrically, you may not notice that anything is wrong until the condition has worsened considerably.
In the worst cases, your dog will be unable to use both front legs properly and will refuse to go on walks.
How to treat Canine Elbow Dysplasia
Surgery is the most common action taken to address Canine Elbow Dysplasia.
How to prevent Canine Elbow Dysplasia
If you are purchasing your dog from a breeder, you will need assurances that neither parent suffers from this condition and have healthy elbows. And that’s tough to prove because Elbow Dysplasia may not start to happen until advanced years, once the parents have stopped being used for breeding.
Osteoarthritis in the elbow
Another elbow problem that some dogs deal with is osteoarthritis, which is the loss of cartilage in the elbow joint. This condition can set in and deem a dog unable to walk comfortably.
If your dog is large or has put on too much weight for its size, this can put a lot of stress on the dogs’ joints and cause the cartilage to wear away.
Some dogs have a predisposition to developing osteoarthritis, but unless there has been clear trauma, doctors have no way of knowing for sure what causes this degenerative disease.
If your dog has arthritis, they won’t want to move around much and may appear to be stiff when they do move.
How to treat osteoarthritis in the elbow
Your vet will recommend non surgical interventions to start with. These include oral medications, activity modifications and physical therapy, followed by cortisone injections.
The last resort is surgery.
You can make your dog more comfortable living with osteoarthritis with an orthopedic bed. You will see our recommendations soon.
How to prevent osteoarthritis in the elbow
To give your dog the best chance of avoiding osteoarthritis, feed him a healthy, balanced diet to stave off obesity. This is extremely important because osteoarthritis is often permanent and can drastically lower your dog’s quality of life.
Protect Your Dogs’ Elbows
Now that you know about some of the elbow problems that your dog could develop, let’s look at some of the things you can do to protect his elbows.
Keep your dog off of hard surfaces
This may be hard to do if your dog prefers to be on the cold, hard floor. However, it is best for your dog’s elbow joints if you discourage him from sleeping and resting on hard surfaces. You can purchase a soft doggy bed or rug for your dog to rest or sleep on.
Here are our bed recommendations for your dog.
|Brand||Product||Type||Check the latest price on Amazon.com|
|K&H Pet Products||Lectro-Soft Outdoor Heated Bed||Mat for use outdoors in colder months||Check price|
|K&H Pet Products||Ortho Thermo-Bed||Indoor mat for dogs with arthritis or joint issues.||Check price|
|K9 Ballistics||Chew Proof& Waterproof Elevated Pet Bed||Good for concrete yards. Keeps dogs cool in summer.||Check price|
|Big Barker||7 inch Pillow Top Orthopedic Dog Bed||Bed for large dogs. Indoor use.||Check price|
|Majestic Pet||Suede Bagel Dog Bed||Indoor use. Comes in many sizes.||Check price|
Don’t feed your dog unhealthy table food
Overweight dogs are much more likely to suffer from elbow problems than dogs that maintain a healthy weight.
So, refrain from giving your dog nibbles of pizza and fried chicken.
This could seriously hurt them in the long run.
Keep your dog active
If your dog does not already have an elbow condition, keep them to be energetic and active.
Take them on frequent walks.
This will also help them to stay at a healthy weight.
Take them to regular vet appointments
Since some elbow conditions require a professional diagnosis, it’s imperative to take your dog for his annual checkup. This way, if your dog develops an elbow problem, your vet will be able to diagnose it and begin treatment quickly.
Watch your dog during walks
Keep an eye on how your dog walks.
Talk to a veterinarian whenever you notice any behavior that is abnormal for your dog: limping, favoring one leg over another, or exhibiting other behavior that you’re worried about.
Sometimes You Can’t Do Anything
As briefly mentioned earlier, not all elbow conditions are caused by trauma or even the dog’s weight. So, don’t feel down on yourself if your dog develops an elbow condition. It cannot always be prevented. What matters more is that you take action when you notice that something is wrong.
Not only do you know that your dog has elbows, but you also know about common elbow problems to look out for and how you can protect your dog’s elbows. We hope that this article serves as a guide to help you with your dog’s elbow-related issues.