7 Common Causes Of Lick Granuloma In Dogs And Cats Why Your Pet Has Been Licking And Chewing Themselves

A Dog And Cat Sitting Side By Side

Itโ€™s natural for pets to chew and lick themselves, but when it becomes compulsive and constant, your pet can develop serious problems, such as lick granuloma. Learn how to tell if your pet's licking is getting out of hand here.

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:

1. Allergies

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.

2. Pain

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.

3. Boredom

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.

4. Stress

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.

6. Habit

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.

7. Hypothyroidism

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.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you treat a granuloma lick on a dog?

When treating a dog's granuloma lick, a thorough strategy is needed to address both the underlying cause and the visible wound. The condition known as granuloma lick, often referred to as acral lick dermatitis or lick granuloma, is a self-inflicted wound brought on by a dog's compulsive licking or chewing of a particular area of the body, which causes the development of a thicker, ulcerated lesion. There are various actions that need to be taken in order to treat a dog's granuloma lick properly. First and foremost, it's critical to determine what is causing the licking habit. In order to conduct a complete inspection and identify the cause of the behavior, this necessitates consultation with a veterinarian. Allergies, stress, boredom, worry, or an underlying medical problem are common causes. Following that, behavior adjustment is crucial to the healing process. Changing the dog's behavior can stop the dog from licking the injured region. Additionally, for wound healing and infection prevention, adequate wound care is crucial. The veterinarian's prescribed mild antiseptic solution should be used to clean the wound carefully. A topical antibiotic ointment or spray can also aid in preventing bacterial growth. To stop further licking and promote healing in more severe cases or if the wound won't heal, bandaging or an Elizabethan collar (cone) may be required. Medication and topical treatments may be prescribed to address underlying medical conditions, alleviate itching, and reduce inflammation. Additionally, oral antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs, and allergy medications may be prescribed based on the veterinarian's assessment. Similarly, medicated shampoos, sprays, or creams can aid in soothing the affected area and aid in the healing process.

How do you treat a lick granuloma on a cat?

Addressing the root of the problem and preserving the injured skin is the normal course of therapy for lick granuloma in cats entails multiple measures. Protecting the impacted region from more licking or chewing is the first step. To discourage the cat from exacerbating the wound, your veterinarian may recommend the use of bandages or neck collars. While neck collars, like Elizabethan collars or inflatable collars, can be used to establish a physical barrier and restrict the cat's access to the wound, bandages can be used to cover the region and prevent direct access to the wound. In addition to preventative measures, a doctor may recommend medicine to treat particular lick granuloma symptoms. If there is proof of a bacterial illness or to stop secondary infections brought on by persistent licking and chewing, antibiotics may be provided. If a fungal infection is suspected, antifungal medications may be advised. In situations where allergies are thought to be a factor in the licking behavior, antihistamines may be helpful. These medications aim to reduce itching, inflammation, and the urge to lick, thereby facilitating the healing process. For long-term treatment, treating the underlying cause is crucial in addition to medicine. In order to lessen the tension, worry, or boredom that might be motivating the licking habit, behavior modification approaches may be used. Playtime, interactive toys, scratching posts, and environmental enrichment can all help refocus the cat's attention and stimulate its mind.

What causes lick granulomas in dogs?

Lick granulomas, also known as acral lick dermatitis, can have multiple root causes in dogs. One typical cause is behavioral, in which recurrent licking or chewing of a particular location develops into a compulsive activity. Factors like boredom, anxiety, stress, or irritation may be the root cause of this behavior. Dogs may lick excessively as a coping technique for themselves or as a result of a lack of mental stimulation. A granuloma may also develop as a result of skin irritation or an initial wound that causes the dog to lick the affected area repeatedly. Lick granulomas can develop as a result of skin sensitivities, including food and environmental allergies. The itching and pain brought on by allergic responses may induce the dog to lick excessively or chew in an effort to soothe the irritation.

How long does it take for a dog to recover from a lick granuloma?

Lick granulomas in dogs can be prone to secondary bacterial infections, such as folliculitis (inflammation of hair follicles) and furunculosis (formation of boils or deep skin infections). Addressing these infections is crucial for the resolution of lick granulomas. In many cases, oral antibiotic therapy is necessary to treat the bacterial infection and promote healing effectively. The duration of oral antibiotic therapy can vary but often spans two to three months or longer, depending on the severity of the infection and the response to treatment. It's important to follow the veterinarian's prescribed treatment plan and complete the full course of antibiotics to ensure proper eradication of the infection.

Are lick granulomas cancerous?

No, they are not considered cancerous lesions. They are self-inflicted injuries brought on by excessive chewing or licking, which results in deeper, ulcerated skin. The lower limbs are where lick granulomas are typically seen, especially in large-breed dogs.

What causes lick granuloma in cats?

Compared to dogs, lick granulomas or feline acral lick dermatitis are relatively uncommon in cats, although they can still happen. Although some particular circumstances may play a role in their formation, the causes of lick granulomas in cats are comparable to those in dogs. Cats' excessive licking and chewing habits can be caused by physical stimuli such as allergies, dermatitis, skin infections, parasites (such as fleas or mites), or underlying discomfort from illnesses like arthritis. Also, cats may get lick granulomas in reaction to emotional states like stress, worry, or boredom. Additionally, certain environmental factors, such as a lack of mental stimulation, restricted living spaces, or changes in household dynamics, can contribute to the development of lick granulomas in cats. It's important to note that cats may engage in excessive grooming behavior due to other medical conditions like allergies, skin infections, or hormonal imbalances.

What is the best treatment for lick granuloma?

The underlying cause and severity of lick granuloma in dogs determine the appropriate course of treatment. Usually, a multifaceted strategy is used, including both medicinal therapies and behavioral changes. First, it's important to treat any physical causes. This may entail utilizing the proper medications to treat underlying infections or allergies, soothing the affected area with topical creams or sprays, or managing pain and inflammation with anti-inflammatory drugs or pain management strategies. It's also crucial to recognize and address any psychological influences. This can be accomplished by altering behaviors, enhancing the surroundings, and treating anxiety or stress. Techniques such as desensitization and counter-conditioning may be employed to redirect the dog's behavior and break the cycle of licking. In some cases, anti-anxiety medications or psychotropic drugs may be prescribed to help manage the dog's psychological issues. Working together with a vet will help you create a specialized treatment strategy suited to the demands of the individual dog. Effective treatment depends on continued management of triggers and preventative actions, as well as regular monitoring of the granuloma. This can entail using safeguards like e-collars or bandages to stop additional licking and promote healing.

What is a natural remedy for lick granuloma?

Natural cures for lick granulomas in dogs can be used as complementary techniques, but it's important to note that their success may vary. Also,  working with a veterinarian is essential for accurate diagnosis and counseling. The use of herbal or homeopathic remedies is one possible natural treatment. Aloe vera, calendula, and chamomile are all recognized for their calming effects and can be administered topically to lessen swelling and encourage healing. Lavender or chamomile essential oils used in diffusers or sprays, which are natural therapies for lowering anxiety and stress, may help soothe the dog and deter excessive licking.

What antibiotics treat granuloma?

The selection of antibiotics to treat granulomas is based on a number of factors, including the granuloma's primary etiology and the existence of any secondary infections. Infections can cause granulomas, and the causing organisms are frequently targeted with antibiotics. To treat bacterial infections, broad-spectrum antibiotics like cephalexin, amoxicillin-clavulanic acid, or clindamycin are frequently utilized. These antibiotics assist in eradicating the infection-causing germs and lowering inflammation in the afflicted region. Culture and sensitivity testing may be carried out to choose the best antibiotic when a particular bacterial illness is detected. For example, if a resistant strain of bacteria causes granuloma, antibiotics like enrofloxacin or doxycycline may be prescribed. In some instances, fungal infections can lead to granulomas, and antifungal medications such as itraconazole or fluconazole may be necessary to treat the condition effectively.

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