Ask Dr. Chris

My Pyrenees Has Elbow Lumps

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Dr. Chris,

Hello, thank you for taking the time. My Great pyrenees has floating, soft lumps on the front elbows. They go up and down in size. One day they are large one day one elbow has it..the next day they come back.  Are Pyrenees prone to such a thing?

Chris, Canyon Lake, TX

Thank you for your question!

I believe what you are seeing in your furry friend is called a hygroma.  These are fairly common in many of the giant breed dogs such as Great Pyrenees, St. Bernards and Newfoundlands.  These can even occur in other breeds such as Labradors.

Hygromas develop on the elbows of giant breed dogs due to pressure on the point of the elbow and an inflammatory process that causes fluid to form and build up in a sac under the skin.  In normal dogs, chronic low grade trauma to the elbow from laying on hard surfaces causes a callus to form on the elbow over time.

In giant breeds, the hygroma forms instead of or in addition to the callus.

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Elbow hygroma

The best thing to do with these soft, fluid filled structures is to leave them alone and use padding on the elbows or excellent padding on bedding to reduce the trauma to the elbow.  There have been many medical treatments attempted over the years, none of which worked any better than conservative treatment.

I wanted to mention that on Wikipedia, there was a recommendation to drain these swellings or place a drain tube and allow them to continuously drain over a period of several days to weeks.  This is outdated information and should be avoided.  The only time that surgical treatment of hygromas is recommended is if they have become infected or severely ulcerated.  From the sound of your Pyrenees, this is not the case.

One of the most frustrating things in giant breed dogs is that they tend to be stubborn and don’t like to lay on padded surfaces. There is a product called “doggleggs” that may be helpful in protecting the elbows from further trauma and potential serious long term complications if the hygromas don’t resolve.  You can find these on the doggleggs website.  This device provides protection for the elbows and allows these swellings to resolve on their own.

With time, patience and protecting the elbows, these soft swellings will go away and a callus will form on the elbow.

Dr. Chris Smith
Your Dog’s Favorite Veterinarian

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