Saturday, February 26, 2011

About Elbow Hygroma in Great Danes

Great Dane Elbow Hygroma
If your Great Dane has a large, fluid-filled sac on its elbow, it could be an elbow hygroma.  The sac actually protects the elbow of giant breed dogs by cushioning the bone.

How to Relieve Pressure on an Elbow Hygroma in Great Danes

What is the Large Sac on My Great Dane's Elbow?

My daughter's Great Dane, Odin, developed a fluid-filled sac on his elbow when he was about nine months old. The elbow growth started small, about the size of a grape and rapidly grew in size. Within a few months, the elbow sac on the Great Dane was the size of a baseball.

Odin's veterinarian diagnosed the growth on the dog's elbow as an "elbow hygroma". The sac looks very uncomfortable but it does not seem to bother Odin at all. The veterinarian said that the biggest danger about elbow hygromas in giant dogs is an infection if the hygroma breaks open.

According to a report from Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine, "The hygroma is a fluid-filled cavity surrounded by a dense wall of fibrous tissue. Hygromas are seen in young large or giant breeds of dogs (e.g., German shepherds, Great Danes, bull mastiffs, and Irish wolfhounds)." The reports goes on to say, "The condition is often seen in large or giant breeds of dog that tend to lie in sterna decumbency on unpadded surfaces, thus placing pressure on skin over the olecranons."

Cause of an Elbow Hygroma

The veterinarian explained that Great Danes are prone to hygromas because when they lay down on a hard surface, it puts pressure on the dog's elbow and the hygroma grows to offer protection to the elbow. Odin weighs 140 lbs. and when he lies down, he crashes to the floor with his entire weight on his elbows. The elbow hygroma developed on the dog's left elbow because he favors lying on that side.

How to Alleviate Pressure on a Great Dane' Elbow

My daughter tried the following methods to take the pressure of the elbow hygroma and found that using a combination of the methods works well for her dog.

1) Memory Foam - a four-inch memory foam mattress provided support and extra padding for the Great Dane's elbow. Keeping a memory foam mattress in each room gives the dog somewhere to lay down wherever he is. My daughter's kitchen has a ceramic tile floor so she always keeps the memory foam in the kitchen for Odin.
2) Overstuffed Sheepskin Bedding - an extra large sheepskin dog bed prevents unnecessary pressure on the dog's elbow, preventing any chafing or irritation to the hygroma. Odin has a sheepskin bed in his dog crate for a comfortable night's sleep.
3) Turning the Dog - If you notice your Great Dane lying on the side with the elbow hygroma, turn him to his other side. Odin is a very mild mannered dog, so my daughter can turn him without a problem.
4) Donut Shaped Elbow Padding - This method is effective if you can get your giant dog to keep it on the elbow. Roll up a soft towel or foam tube into a donut shape. Use an ace bandage to wrap the towel or tube to keep its shape. Place the donut hole over the elbow hygroma and attach the donut to your dog's elbow. The hardest part about using elbow padding is preventing the dog from pulling it off. Try different methods to attach the padding to your dog's elbow: rolled bandage, bandage tape, sports tape, ace bandage, or Velcro strips
5) Keep the Elbow Hygroma Clean - My daughter checks her Great Dane's hygroma a few times every day. It is difficult to notice a break in the hygroma through the dog's fur, so thoroughly check the area for any inflammation. Washing the elbow hygroma also prevents germs and bacteria from infecting the elbow area.

All of these methods to relieve pressure from an elbow hygroma help prevent infection from ulcers and ruptures.

Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine
William Best, Jr., D.M.D., Foxboro Animal Hospital, Foxboro, MA
Personal Experience

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