Lick granuloma is a skin condition that cats and dogs can bring upon themselves by repeatedly licking an area of their body until they create sores. Working a spot on their skin over and over creates a red, irritated, hairless patch that may be similar to a hot spot. These lesions may bleed and eventually will develop into a thick, sensitive, raised wound that is infected and doesn’t heal on its own. Often these wounds are made on the legs, feet or hind quarters, but you may find them on other body parts as well.
While your dog or cat’s licking may cause lick granuloma -- also known as acral lick dermatitis -- there are several underlying factors that can set off your pet’s compulsive and unceasing urge to lick their skin. These triggers can be physical, emotional, or psychological. The most common factors include:
Food and atopic (or inhalant) allergies can cause inflammation and pruritus (itching), leading dogs and cats to lick themselves repeatedly. Talk to your vet about whether a skin test or a change in diet could help alleviate the symptoms.
Pets that, all of a sudden, start spending excessive amounts of energy grooming and licking themselves may be showing signs of a serious illness. If they feel bone or joint pain, for instance, they may use their tongue to soothe the area. Watch for other symptoms such as weakness or limping and discuss with your veterinarian.
Energetic breeds, such as Australian Cattle Dogs, that don’t get enough exercise each day or are left alone for long periods of time are very prone to compulsive grooming and licking. The behavior basically gives them something to do and is a distraction.
For dogs and cats suffering from anxiety (due to a change in environment, abusive behavior, separation from a pet parent, or other issues) compulsive licking may become a method of self soothing to relieve their stress.
5. Obsessive-compulsive disorder
Other pets may suffer a psychological disorder similar to humans who are diagnosed with OCD. They simply cannot control the urge to lick.
Cats and dogs that develop lick granuloma because they are licking to manage itchiness or pain may continue licking compulsively because it has become a habit that is hard to break.
The imbalance of hormones due to hypothyroidism results in scaling of the skin and itchiness that your pet may try to deal with by repeatedly licking and chewing specific itchy patches.
Regardless of the initial cause, once a dog or cat creates a lick granuloma wound, it becomes a source of ongoing discomfort that drives animals to continue to fuss with it. Anti-inflammatory drugs such as methylprednisolone can help ease the pain and irritation.
Then you need to work on getting your pet to leave the healing skin alone. Using special collars or bandaging the area may keep your pet from reaching the irritated spot, but you may also need to provide your cat or dog with extra emotional support. For instance, if your pet usually spends long hours alone at home, you might consider hiring a sitter or dog walker who can offer social interaction for a homebound animals.
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