Lick Granuloma In Dogs And Cats: Painful Skin Sores To Lick Or Not To Lick

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Dogs, cats and licking seem to go hand in hand. It never does strike a pet parent to see their pet continuously lick themselves. Lick granuloma is when your pet obsessively licks one spot over and over and over again, sometimes resulting in painful sores. Learn more here on the different causes that may be having your pet over-licking themselves.

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 petโ€™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 petโ€™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
  • Acupuncture
  • 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.

Pemphigus In Dogs And Cats: The Leading Autoimmune Skin Issue In Pets 

Many pet parents havenโ€™t heard of pemphigus, but this autoimmune skin condition is more common than you may know -- itโ€™s actually the most common autoimmune skin condition in dogs and cats.

Pemphigus in dogs and cats can affect pets of any age. The condition occurs when the immune system begins attacking the animalโ€™s skin. Autoantibodies deposit themselves in the spaces between skin cells, causing the cells to pull away from one another. This, in turn, results in the breakdown of skin tissue.

Cases of pemphigus can range from minor to severe; it all depends on how deep the autoantibody is within the skin layers.

There are four types of pemphigus that affect dogs, three of which also affect cats:

  • Pemphigus erythematosus: Autoantibodies are found in the surface level layers of skin and cause little to no incidence.

  • Pemphigus foliaceus: Autoantibodies are found in the surface level layers of skin and cause blisters.

  • Pemphigus vulgaris: Autoantibodies are found in the deeper layers of skin and cause ulcers.

  • Pemphigus vegetans: This type affects dogs only, not cats. It is similar to vulgaris, but with less severe ulcers.

Why is my pet experiencing pemphigus?

The cause of pemphigus is unknown; however, veterinarians have pinpointed a few factors that may lead to flare-ups. Possible causes include:

  • Heredity: This condition is seen in Akitas and Chow Chows more than any other dog breeds. Pemphigus is also seen among littermates. However, it is not commonly seen in specific cat breeds.

  • Ultraviolet Light: Vets have seen cases in which the condition improves in the winter when pets are more likely to be indoors and flare up in the summer when they are more likely to be outdoors under the sunโ€™s rays. Theyโ€™ve also seen a similar correlation between colder and warmer regions.

  • Medications: Certain medications may cause a flare-up, which will typically appear about seven days after the first dose. But if the medication has caused a flare-up in the past, the reaction can occur in as little as 24 hours. Be sure to inform your vet if a new medication seems to be having side effects.

  • History of chronic conditions: These includes allergies, hypothyroidism, and systemic lupus, among others.

What are the most common symptoms of pemphigus?

Symptoms will vary depending on the type of pemphigus your pet is experiencing. Possible symptoms include:

  • Excessive itching
  • Hair loss
  • Red, scaly, crusty skin commonly along the head, ears, nose, and foot pads
  • Pustules, cysts, and ulcers along mentioned areas; in more severe cases
  • Lack of appetite, lethargy, and moodiness
  • Loss of color in the gums and lips
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Fever in more severe cases

How do I treat pemphigus?

After a complete physical examination and a variety of other tests to diagnosis pemphigus, your vet will recommend a treatment that best addresses your petโ€™s needs. Possible treatments include:

  • Steroid therapy. Typically corticosteroid and azathioprine.
  • Change in diet. You pet will need to follow a low-fat diet if steroid therapy is prescribed to protect the pancreas.
  • Reduce exposure to ultraviolet light and triggering medications.
  • Management of other chronic conditions.

Keep in mind, pemphigus will likely come and go over time. So in other words, pemphigus is best treated with proactive management of the condition. And donโ€™t worry, it is not a contagious condition.

More on Skin Health

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5 Treatments For Cat Dry Skin
Common Dog Skin Issues

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