Dog beds

Hygroma: Bursitis Treatment in Dogs

Hygroma afflicts large breed dogs including, but not limited to, Great Danes, Mastiffs, Newfoundlands, Greyhounds, Irish Wolfhounds, Dalmations and Dobermans.

A hygroma growth is a fluid-filled sac that is formed on the elbow. Vets believe it’s caused by the dogs irritating the elbow, by lying on hard surfaces or by the dog favoring one elbow over the other when lying down. The sac forms below the skin and feels firm but is yielding and somewhat mobile within the loose skin.

Usually, dogs develop hygroma when they are young and lying on hard surfaces doesn’t seem to bother them. It then comes back to haunt them as they get older.

Bursa, or elbow bursitis is the similar human condition. The bursa is a liquid filled sac in the elbow to help the skin slide over the elbow. When the elbow is damaged or hurt, bursitis (hygroma) is the result. At first, the bursa may not be painful; however, as the dog ages, it can become very sore and swollen. Eventually it can become ulcerated and harm the joint and bone.

Naturally it’s better to prevent this occurrence by always providing a soft place for the dog to sleep or lay, such as a dog bed or pad. This doesn’t always work and some dogs refuse the comfy dog beds or pads, preferring the cool, but hard, tile flooring. Bored dogs can even shred their bedding for something to do, and still end up on hard surfaces. Even dogs who always sleep on soft surfaces can still end up with hygroma. Very perplexing and frustrating.

The conventional veterinary hygroma treatment is to drain the fluid with a needle, then pressure wrap the leg to stop the swelling in the elbow from reforming. Once the pressure wrap comes off, the swelling usually returns. The other hygroma treatment is invasive surgery, which is neither optimal for the dog or owner, becoming a permanent issue. If an infection or ulceration sets in, sometimes surgery is the only option. But I had a plan.

Before Drain Treatment

before hygroma drain treatment

After hours of badgering, my vet at Squaw Peak Animal Hospital (Dr. Mike Ferrera, 3141 E. Lincoln Dr. Phoenix, AZ 85016 Phone: 602-553-8855) finally agreed to insert a Penrose drain into one of my Great Dane’s puppy’s elbows. I had him bandage the elbow area only, no pressure wrapping, and leave the tube in for a week. The tube acts to grow scar tissue within the elbow as well as allowing elbow fluid to drain for an entire week. When the tube comes out, the scar tissue remains and we theorize the scar tissue does not allow fluid build up again. We have successfully treated four dogs with hygroma with the Penrose drain hygroma treatment, and to date, none have returned.

However, during that week when the tube is in, close observation of the dog is necessary to make sure the tube does not get ripped out. A good Bite Not Collar or ProCollar is invaluable. And of course, rebandage once in a while to check for infection. As a side note, my vet thought I was nuts and advised on my way out the door that I was "on my own".

After Drain Treatment

after hygroma drain treatment

The process to insert the tube was less expensive than some of the dog beds available. Note that many vets are reticent to try this hygroma treatment. It’s unproven, not medically suggested, it’s not in their medical books and it’s outside of their comfort zone. My vet is a genuine trooper; right now he has dogs coming in from all over the state for this treatment. To date, he has had no failures. Both vets within my vet’s practice are now performing this minor surgery to insert the tubes. I would urge dog owners who are fighting hygroma to talk to (or badger) their vets about this treatment. It does work, it’s non invasive and it’s very minor surgery.

Protect your dog’s sensitive joints, order a bed today.

Remember, a comfortable dog is a happy dog! waterproof thick foam dog beds will help protect your large or giant breed dog's joints as he ages. They are hose tested and leak proof. With our unique Velcro closure and vinyl cover, moisture will not get into the joint protecting 4" foam padding. Made with large breed and giant breed dogs in mind! Just wipe clean with a wet cloth.


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