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
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
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
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
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
- Topical or injectable steroids to reduce pain, swelling,
- 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
Many pet parents haven’t heard of pemphigus, but this
autoimmune skin condition is more common than you may know --
it’s actually the most common autoimmune skin condition in dogs
Pemphigus in dogs and cats can affect pets of any age. The
condition occurs when the immune system begins attacking the
animal’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
Cases of pemphigus can range from minor to severe; it all
depends on how deep the autoantibody is within the skin
There are four types of pemphigus that affect dogs, three of
which also affect cats:
erythematosus: Autoantibodies are found in the
surface level layers of skin and cause little to no
foliaceus: Autoantibodies are found in the
surface level layers of skin and cause blisters.
vulgaris: Autoantibodies are found in the deeper
layers of skin and cause ulcers.
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
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.
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 sun’s rays. They’ve also seen
a similar correlation between colder and warmer regions.
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
- Red, scaly, crusty skin commonly along the head, ears,
nose, and foot pads
- Pustules, cysts, and ulcers along mentioned areas; in more
Lack of appetite, lethargy, and
- 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 pet’s needs. Possible
- 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
- 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 don’t worry, it is not a
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