Bursitis is inflammation of bursae, sac-like cavities filled with a thick fluid and surrounded by a fibrous covering. Bursae serve to reduce friction between tendons and over bones. There are two types of bursae: true bursae and false bursae. True bursae are present at birth and are found between bones and tendons. False bursae, called hygromas, develop as a result of a trauma and are found over bony prominences. Hygromas are readily visible and are seen most often in the elbow area, but may occur over any other bony prominence. Initially, they are small, soft swellings, but in time they can become large and hard.
The diagnosis of bursitis is made based on signs and physical examination. If infection is present, a culture and sensitivity tests may be needed to identify the bacteria and determine the most effective antibiotic. True bursitis usually responds to rest. Some cases require corticosteroids to reduce the swelling and pain. Hygromas are more difficult to treat, but fortunately most can be left alone, unless they are causing pain, increasing in size, or are infected. Small hygromas respond well to surgical drainage, but larger ones may require surgical removal. In heavy dogs, however, wound healing is often a problem after surgical removal because of the continuing trauma to the area from the weight of the dog. Good nursing care is essential. To prevent bursitis, use soft bedding and do not allow your dog to become overweight.