What is Elbow Hygroma in Dogs?  | PetFirst
What is Elbow Hygroma in Dogs? 
Pet Care & Health

What is Elbow Hygroma in Dogs? 

by PetFirst Pet Insurance
5 months ago

A hygroma is a fluid-filled swelling that typically occurs on a bony area of a dog’s body, particularly his or her elbows. While hygroma’s aren’t usually painful for dogs, they can lead to infection and should not be left untreated.   

In this article we’ll cover how to spot hygromas, what causes them, how best to treat them, and what can be done to prevent them from occurring in the first place. Let’s dive in.  

How to identify elbow hygroma: signs and symptoms 

Elbow hygromas are often mistaken for tumors. Hygromas are fluid-filled pockets that protrude from the skin and tend to be somewhat round in shape. They can be small and subtle or as large as an apple in shape and size.   

Initially, hygromas are soft to the touch. However, over time hygromas tend to become hard and some develop scabs on the surface6.  

Hygromas are usually found on bony parts of a dog’s body, such as the elbows or the sit bones, as these are high-pressure points. If you a spot swelling on this area of your dog’s body, there’s a good chance it’s a hygroma. Anytime you notice something unusual on your pet, it is always best to have your veterinarian check it out.

What causes elbow hygroma? 

The VCA explains that elbow hygromas form when the elbow experiences trauma. If the elbow is bumped or banged too hard, the dog’s tissue may become inflamed as his body works to cushion the injured area. This is just like how us humans may swell and bruise when we bang our limbs against a hard surface.   

If the swollen area on the dog is repeatedly bumped or bashed, such as when your dog lays down on a hard surface, the hygroma will grow. This is why hygromas commonly occur on pressure points on a dog’s body, because they experience repeated trauma.   

According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, hygromas are most common on large dogs and older dogs. Large dogs put more trauma on their pressure points, such as elbows, because they are heavier. In the case of older dogs, hygromas may occur if your pup lives a sedentary lifestyles. Hygromas may occur in this case due to continued pressure on certain parts of the body (similar to how bed-ridden humans may form bedsores)7.   

Elbow hygroma treatment 

If you suspect your dog has a hygroma, have it examined by your veterinarian.

While hygromas usually don’t cause any discomfort to your dog, they can become problematic if left unattended. Hygromas that aren’t treated can grow uncomfortably large and may even become infected. In order to avoid this, it’s best to have them treated early on, rather than waiting for a problem to arise. 

The exact treatment plan will depend on the state of your dog’s hygroma.   

For mild hygromas the treatment can be quite simple. Your vet may recommend changing your dog’s bedding, or placing a pad over top of the hygroma to prevent it from worsening. According to MarVista Vet, ‘simple’ hygromas can heal on their own in just a few weeks8.  

In some cases, the hygroma can be drained using a technique called fine needle aspiration. This technique is when a small needle, that is attached to a syringe, is inserted into the hygroma. The syringe is used to suck out the excess fluid9.  

If the hygroma is infected, your vet may administer antibiotics. In extreme cases, hygromas require surgical drainage and even skin grafting to ensure the area heals properly9. However, it is unlikely that your pet’s hygroma will reach this level of severity.    

Preventing elbow hygromas 

Fortunately, hygromas can be prevented by protecting your dog’s bony areas from trauma. In most cases, this equates to ensuring he or she has a padded bed to lay down on, rather than a hard floor. This is especially important for dogs leading sedentary lifestyles, as prolonged pressure on their elbows and other bony protrusions is an invitation for hygromas.   

The possibility of hygromas is the perfect excuse to purchase your pup a soft, luxuriously cushioned bed.  

If changing your dog’s bedding doesn’t suit his lifestyle, cushioned sleeves are another way to protect his elbows from impact. These are a great option for active dogs who are often on the go. You can ask your veterinarian for a recommendation on using a sleeve and where to purchase one. 

Final thoughts 

Like any ailment, it’s best to have elbow hygromas examined early before they have a chance to develop into a more severe issue. A good way to catch hygromas early is to perform regular physical checks on your dog and take note of any changes or abnormalities you notice.  

Unexpected medical problems are the last thing any of us want for our canine pals, but fortunately if you catch hygromas early they are typically easy to resolve.   

Nothing in this article should be construed as financial, legal or veterinary advice. Please consult your own advisors for questions relating to your and your pet’s specific circumstances.


1PetFirst Healthcare, LLC (“PetFirst Pet Insurance” or “PetFirst”) is the program administrator authorized to offer and administer pet health insurance policies underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company, a Delaware insurance company, with its main office at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, or New Hampshire Insurance Company or The Insurance Company of the State of Pennsylvania, each with its main administrative office at 500 West Madison Street, Suite 3000 Chicago, IL 60661. For costs, complete details of coverage, and a listing of approved states, please contact PetFirst Healthcare, LLC.  

2Like most insurance policies, insurance policies offered by PetFirst Healthcare, LLC contain certain exclusions, exceptions, reductions, limitations, and terms for keeping them in force.  

 6VCA: Hygromas in Dogs 

7Merck Veterinary Manual: Hygroma in Dogs 

8Mar Vista Vet: Elbow Hygroma 

9WebMD: Fine Needle Aspiration 

Ready? Start your free quote


You May Also Like...

Breed Spotlight- Catahoula Leopard Dog

Breed Spotlight: Catahoula Leopard Dog

Happy National Catahoula Day! Celebrated on April 8th, this national…

by PetFirst
2 days ago
How to Have A Pet-Friendly Easter

How to Have A Pet-Friendly Easter

Easter, often celebrated with food, flowers, and egg hunts, is…

by PetFirst
1 week ago
8 Spring Safety Tips That Could Save Your Cat’s Life

Spring Safety Tips That Could Save Your Cat’s Life

Spring is a time filled with renewed energy, Easter celebrations,…

by PetFirst
1 week ago

Start your free quote.

Get My Free Quote Get Quote