Lick granuloma, also known as acral lick granuloma, is a skin condition that can result in a rather nasty looking wound. It will usually occur on your pooch’s lower leg, although sometimes it can be found on the tail or the flank. So, what causes lick granuloma? The answer is actually not that straightforward. And just as the causes of this condition can be many and varied, so is lick granuloma treatment.
What is Lick Granuloma?
‘Granuloma’ is the word used to describe a type of wound. It is characterized by a proliferation of skin cells that have accumulated as a result of infection or irritation. So, lick granuloma essentially refers to a wound that is the result of persistent licking in one area. The granuloma can end up looking quite nasty—no fur, red, raw, irritated, and pussy.
Acral Lick Granuloma in Dogs
If your dog is licking persistently, they will most likely target the paws or the flank. Depending on the underlying cause, it could be because these areas are easy to reach or because they are painful or irritated.
There are some breeds that appear to be predisposed to developing lick granuloma, such as Doberman, Great Dane, Golden Labrador, Labrador Retriever, German Shepherd, and Boxer. However, other breeds and mixed breeds can still develop the condition. In fact, it is thought that the dog’s individual temperament and surroundings have a large bearing on whether it is at risk. Let’s have a closer look at some of the reasons dogs develop this condition.
Canine Lick Granuloma – Potential Causes
Interestingly, it is widely thought that lick granuloma is often the result of an underlying psychological condition, similar to obsessive compulsive disorder. Dogs that are bored or anxious may start licking their extremities as a way to ease their boredom or anxiety. As the area becomes inflamed, the dog licks more to soothe the irritation, and a vicious cycle begins.
However, it is not always the case that the dog starts licking due to psychological distress. Sometimes, the underlying problem is an allergy or dermatitis. Other causes can include trauma, deeper infections, arthritis, or a foreign body which has become lodged beneath the skin.
For this reason, it is vital to take your dog to see the vet. They will be able to determine what the underlying cause of this behavior is and help you with some treatments to heal the wound that has already developed. So, let’s discuss how to get rid of lick granuloma.
How to Treat Lick Granuloma
Depending on the underlying cause of the issue, the treatment your vet recommends will vary. Your veterinarian will take steps to identify the underlying issue. They will also address the wound itself and suggest treatments to aid in its healing. Some common treatments may include:
Lick Granuloma Bandage
A bandage is applied to the affected area both to treat the wound and to stop the dog from licking it. Your vet may apply glucocorticoids to the wound topically to aid in the healing process. If your dogs wound is bandaged and the dog starts compulsively licking another spot, this is an indication the issue could be psychological.
While the wound is healing, your vet may suggest your dog don an Elizabethan collar. While your dog may appear embarrassed wearing this somewhat nerdy accessory, it will prevent them from aggravating the wound while it heals, and this in turn will aid in halting the ‘itch-lick’ cycle.
Some dogs might require stronger, systematic medications which will not only help the wound heal but will also treat any underlying infection. What your vet prescribes and how it is administered will vary depending on the diagnosis and the severity of the wound.
In some cases, the wound might need to be removed surgically. This tends to be a very last resort, as your pooch might start licking the wound left after surgery, and the issue starts again.
Addressing Behavioral Problems
In many cases, the underlying behavior of the dog is what needs to be addressed. This may be treated with medication in the short term. In the longer term, giving your dog more exercise, confining your dog less, and positively interacting with it more is likely to ease the symptoms.
In some cases, treatments such as laser ablation, radiation, cryotherapy, and acupuncture have been reported to have had variable results in the treatment of lick granuloma.
Other Issues That May Be the Cause of Lick Granuloma
At times, other medical conditions that are less common can be behind the constant licking. Possible causes include: some types of cancers and tumors, fungal infections, previous orthopedic interventions (such as pins), neurological problems, or certain infectious diseases.
Preventing Lick Granuloma
There are many reasons your dog may have developed lick granuloma. As such, there is no one way to prevent it. If your dog has allergies or sensitivities, watching what they eat and ensuring they are not exposed to allergens is one way to prevent lick granuloma recurring.
To catch the behavior early, run your hands down your dog’s legs to check for wet spots. If one spot in always wet, there might be an issue developing. Ensure that your dog has plenty of exercise and interaction with you. Avoid leaving your dog confined for long periods of time. Take note of situations that trigger anxiety in your dog and take steps to either avoid such situations or to help lessen your dog’s anxiety through positive reinforcement.
There are a lot of reasons that your dog may have developed lick granuloma. A proper diagnosis is vital, as the application of a simple antibacterial cream is not likely enough to resolve the issue. A thorough examination is the only way to determine if the root of the problem is an underlying medical condition or a behavioral one.
Have you ever had a lick granuloma dog? What was your experience? Let us know in the comments section below.
References and Further Reading
- Ackerman, A., et al “Granulomatous Inflammation and Granuloma: Definitions and a Critique of Them” Derma101, 2003
- Rapoport, J.L., Ryland, D.H., Kriete, M. “Drug Treatment of Canine Acral Lick – An Animal Model of Obsessive-compulsive Disorder” Journal of the American Medical Association, 1992
- Grant, D., “Acral Lick Dermatitis (Acral Lick Granuloma, Lick Granuloma)” Veterinary Practice, 2016
- Rosychuk, R.A.W. “Canine Lick Granuloma” World Small Animal Veterinary Association World Congress Proceedings, 2011
- Millis, D.L., Saunders, D.G. “Biologic Effects of Laser Therapy” Canine Rehabilitation and Physical Therapy (Second Edition), 2014
- Denerolle, P., et al, “Organic Diseases Mimicking Acral Lick Dermatitis in Six Dogs” Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association, 2007
- Keenan, J. “5 Steps to Heal Your Dog’s Lick Granuloma” Dogs Naturally, 2021