Hygromas? The Cure Is So Simple It Might Surprise You

Hygromas in dogs are something I’d never heard of until it happened to us. 

When a vet first mentioned it I was like, “Can you spell that?” Since then we’ve learned a lot. And Shiva’s hygromas are now gone — without any veterinary intervention or invasive procedures. 

Here’s how we did it 

Most often hygromas on dogs have a simple cause: too much lying on hard surfaces. How do you heal hygromas (or anything else, for that matter)? You remove the cause. 

In our case, it was a little more complicated. My dog developed hygromas on both elbows as a complication of calcinosis circumscripta. Calcinosis is a condition caused by the drug prednisone. Hard plates of calcium-phosphate are laid down just beneath the skin. These plates had the same effect as a hard floor, resulting in the hygroma swellings.

But the solution was the same: relieve the pressure between the hard surface and the soft tissues.

An array of treatments for hygroma on dog elbow

Search hygromas online and you’ll find mention of a slew of treatments ranging from involved and finicky to downright invasive. 

Poultices. Bathing in Epsom salts. Fine needle aspiration. Surgery. Drainage.

Not to mention the idea that perhaps your dog will just have to live with the damn lumps. We tried everything short of the draining by needle. I understood this to be best avoided because fine needle aspiration in dogs can introduce infection. 

Activated charcoal

I used activated charcoal wraps for quite a while, on both his calcinosis lumps and the elbow hygromas. Shiva would sit patiently on the bath mat while I plastered him with the black paste and wound plastic wrap around his elbows to increase the heat and open the pores. This dog has been through A LOT and bears it with amazing grace and good will. 

Activated charcoal for dogs is also used internally but here I’m talking instead about the fine powder that you use externally. You make it into a paste by adding water, then paint onto the skin over the hygroma. The idea is it draws out the fluid. It did show signs of working, but we discontinued this approach because of the hazards associated with inhaling the fine dust particles. 

Long story short, nothing was really working.  

The cure for hygroma in dog elbow

Finally, searching for solutions in a dog-related forum online, I happened upon a comment from another owner. She said she’d healed huge hygromas on her dog’s legs. 

How? 

By getting an orthopedic dog bed. She said they went down rapidly as soon as she did that. 

I got one.

In fact, I got several. I basically — and this is key — stopped allowing my dog to lie on our hard floor anytime ever. To ensure that, I positioned beds strategically around the house where he liked to lie so he got the message. 

Guess what? It worked. And fast. The hygromas began to visibly reduce within a few weeks and then healed completely, perhaps within 6 weeks to 2 months. 

He still has the calcinosis plates, which are a separate problem we’re working on. But the hygroma swellings are totally gone. And now, because of the cushioning provided by the beds, the hard calcinosis plates are not causing new swellings. 

All it took was two simple things:

1. no lying on hard surfaces

2. orthopedic dog beds

What causes hygromas in dogs on elbows?

The theory is that hygromas form as the result of the body’s effort to cushion the joint from some kind of trauma or potential damage.

So it makes sense that it’s curative to simply remove the source of the “injury” i.e. pressure against hard surfaces. 

There’s the added benefit that an orthopedic bed gives all your dog’s joints better support. Every dog I ever have from now on will have orthopedic dog beds from the get-go. 

Are orthopedic dog beds really that much better? 

Yes.

Previously I had a super high end and very gorgeous designer dog bed that I loved the look of and Shiva liked. But the filling was basically bean bag innards. 

Shiva’s new beds have far better construction. They’re made from memory foam and — I kid you not — are more comfortable than my own mattress.

In conclusion

Hygromas are not the kind of thing you read about when preparing to bring home your new puppy. But be aware of them — especially if you live in an apartment or have an inside dog who does a lot of lying on hard surfaces. 

If your dog has developed hygromas, take heart. I’m here to tell you there is a straightforward solution. No invasive veterinary procedures. No potions. And it works sooner than you’d think. 

As far as health problems go, this is one of the easier ones to solve. It’s a great example of where knowledge passed from dog owner to dog owner can be transformative. That’s what Shiny Happy Doggy is all about. 

Thank you to the dog owner who first alerted us to this simple solution. May it help many more dogs and owners, just like it helped us. 

More reading

What prednisone does to your dog’s body

How to get started raw feeding a dog

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