Q. My Irish Wolfhound has a swelling on the elbow.  What is it? 

A. This is known as a bursa ( Hygromas).  These swellings are filled with fluid, normally occuring over a bony area, such as elbow, hocks the top of the head and boney bottoms.  They will disappear almost as suddenly as they have appeared of their own accord.  

Bursa on front right elbow

Bursa on front right elbow

Unless they become infected, hard, extremely large, or causing the dog pain, or lameness, I do not drain or otherwise interfered with the bursa. Rather annoyingly they can hang around for several months, usually dispersing given enough time.

Success may be achieved by treating bursas, on elbows and bottoms, with homeopathic Calc Fluor 6c. Some use it in conjunction with Apis Mel 6c.  Sometimes the response is good,  and can be within two weeks of starting treatment. Dosage: two tablets every two hours for six doses. Next two days- two tablets morning and evening. Thereafter two tablets once a day. 

Some owners say they have had a good success rate rubbing hemorrhoid cream on the bursa! 

Your vet will almost certainly suggest draining the bursa and then fill with antibiotics and anti-inflammatories.  Some surgically removed the sac and stitch.

Prevention is better than cure. Ensure that your dog has a soft bed to lie/sleep on. However despite this precautionary measure, dogs can still get bursas. They flop down on to hard surfaces no matter what you try to do to prevent it, preferring  the cold tiles of the kitchen floor!  Some breed lines seem to have a predisposition to them, this could be because they have the same shape and boney areas or they have the same personality in the way they throw themselves around and flop to the ground.  Without doubt they are are trauma related. 

Have some patience and unless your hound is in pain, these annoying swellings which seem to appear in an instant will disappear slowly in their own time.  Sometimes they just burst, which is not as bad as it sounds, and this allows the release of the fluid.  If this happens bathe in warm salt water, or in a warm diluted hibiscrub  solution, in other words keep clean.  At this stage it is best you visit your vet, as you may need antibiotics, and your vet may want to put in a few stitches, it is normal they will leave the lower part open so drainage can take place.  Unless the bursa bursts or becomes becomes infected, it is best to treat conservatively and not invasively.  However always check with your vet if you are unsure.