Every dog and cat licks themselves as a way to stay clean. However, some pets lick a particular spot relentlessly to the point of causing an irritated sore. This is what is referred to as a lick granuloma, or acral lick granuloma. These sore patches of skin are not only uncomfortable for your pet and unsightly for you, they can also be difficult to clear up if not treated quickly and aggressively. Read on to learn about the causes, symptoms, and treatments of lick granuloma in dogs and cats.
Lick Granuloma Causes
Many factors can cause a pet to begin licking a particular spot on their body incessantly, including:
If a pet begins licking due to an injury or anxiety, they may find that the behavior is soothing, and it may become habitual.
As the pet repeatedly licks one area of skin, the hair begins to fall off and the skin becomes red and shiny. Continued licking results in a thick, hardened patch of skin that looks like a growth, and some pets will lick to the point of causing breaks in the skin.
While this condition can appear in any dog or cat, it is most common in large, shorthaired dogs, including the Doberman Pinscher, German Shepherd, Great Dane, Labrador Retriever, Irish Setter, and other bird-hunting dog breeds.
Lick Granuloma Symptoms
Lick granulomas are most often seen on the bottom half of a pet’s legs. They usually begin as a small red spot that over time widens and thickens. The hair will fall off and the area will appear red, shiny, swollen, and irritated, and the skin may ooze or break.
Lick Granuloma Treatment
Lick granulomas are often very difficult to treat because the skin is so thoroughly damaged by the time the pet sees the veterinarian. This is why early detection and treatment are so important.
One of the most important parts of treatment is determining the cause of your pet’s obsessive licking so that they can stop. If the pet is licking because of an allergy, infection, skin condition, parasite, or foreign object, your veterinarian will recommend the appropriate course of treatment. For psychogenic causes -- such as boredom, anxiety, or OCD -- behavioral therapy and medications may be required.
Treatment for the lesion itself will depend on the severity of the wound. Common treatment options include:
- Bandaging or Elizabethan collar to prevent licking. However, this is often a temporary fix to allow the sore to heal. Many pets will return to licking the spot once the bandaging and/or collar are removed if the underlying cause of the licking is not addressed.
- Antibiotics to treat secondary infections. Many pets are kept on them long-term or until the underlying cause is resolved.
- Topical or injectable steroids to reduce pain, swelling, and inflammation
- Radiation therapy
- Laser therapy
- Surgical removal of tissues
- Cryosurgery (freezing the tissues)
If you ever notice your pet licking more than usual, or if you see a red, irritated, or hairless patch of skin, contact your veterinarian.
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