If your dog has been diagnosed with lick granuloma, chances are it started off being more of an annoyance than anything. Your dog had a sore, and wouldn’t stop licking it. You tried ointments, you tried wrapping it up, and somehow your dog just kept getting to it. And while they licked, the sore just spread and spread. If that sounds familiar, you are not alone. This condition is pretty common in dogs that get a sore, and the treatment you’re seeking isn’t exactly a one-size-fits-all solution.
In this guide you’ll learn exactly what lick granuloma, as well as things like:
- Causes of lick granuloma
- Symptoms of lick granuloma
- Diagnosis of lick granuloma
- Lick granuloma dog treatment
- Preventing lick granuloma
If you want to better understand this weird and frustrating condition, keep reading.
What Is Lick Granuloma?
To put it very simply, lick granuloma is an injury to your dog’s skin. When your dog licks and licks at a sore and it leads to the sore spreading, your dog has basically injured their skin and caused the sore to become worse. You may also hear this called acrallick granuloma, which just meals that the sore is on a limb, like a paw or the lower leg.
Both dogs and cats can develop lick granuloma, though it is more commonly seen in dogs. The area where the lick granuloma occurs will be a balding, red, possibly weepy or crusty area of skin. It often looks like a hot spot, but the difference is that hot spots go away when treated. A lick granuloma sticks around because the dog won’t stop licking it!
This issue is often seen in Labrador Retrievers, Great Danes, Irish Setters, and Golden Retrievers. However, any dog could develop lick granuloma.
Causes of Lick Granuloma
The cause of lick granuloma itself is excessive licking – but what causes the excessive licking? There are seven main reasons that a dog may be licking themselves enough to cause this condition:
- Allergies: Your dog may be suffering from a contact allergy to things like grass or fleas, or they may have an allergy to their food. They could also be having a reaction to recently-sprayed pesticides, or chemicals that their paws came into contact with. This causes their paws or upper feet to itch, and they lick to soothe the itching.
- Pain: If your dog has pain in their joints, or a toe gets injured and is painful, or anything like that, they may lick as a means to soothe the pain. You’ll often see other symptoms of the condition causing them pain, like limping. Another thing that you may see is a dog licking a foot as a means of soothing arthritis in a joint they can’t reach. For example, if an older dog cannot bend around to soothe an arthritic hip, they may lick their front paw as a sort of self-soothing technique.
- Anxiety: If a dog has recently had a big life change (moving to a new house, recently being adopted, recently getting extensive medical care, an owner or fellow pet died or moved away), or is being abused, they may lick as a way to deal with their anxiety.
- Boredom: If you have a very energetic breed that is not getting enough exercise, they may turn to licking as a way to handle their build-up of energy.
- Obsessive Compulsive Behavior: Dogs can have obsessive compulsive behaviors that they cannot control, similar to humans who have OCD. In this case, this behavior is related to psychology, and the dog actually can’t help themselves.
- Hypothyroidism: A dog’s skin can get very scaly and itchy if they have hypothyroidism. Excessive licking could be your dog’s way of soothing the skin.
- Habit: Finally, if a dog has gotten into the habit of licking themselves a lot, it could just be something they do out of routine. This is one of the reasons it can be hard to treat lick granuloma; once a dog is in this routine, it’s hard to break them of doing it when you aren’t around or when you’re sleeping.
These are just the most common causes of lick granuloma. There are others, including things like yeast infections or bacterial infections that may be making the dog itchy, or nerve damage that could be affecting the dog.
Symptoms of Lick Granuloma
Lick granuloma will result in areas of the skin where the hair has been licked away. The skin will be irritated, red, shiny, scaly, weeping, or inflamed. It can also be bleeding, and can even have raised callouses from constant licking. These are most often seen on the tail, the feet, the lower part of the legs, and the “wrist” area of the front legs.
Diagnosis of Lick Granuloma
Diagnosing lick granuloma is pretty easy: if the sores are visible, and aren’t hot spots that go away with treatment, and you’ve seen your dog excessively licking, it’s probably lick granuloma. However, diagnosing the cause of the licking is a little more complex.
The vet will likely start with tests for common issues like allergies, skin infections, fleas, and other similar things. The vet can test your dog’s response to many common irritants and allergens to determine if this is the problem.
The vet can also take skin scrapings and cultures to look for anything like yeast infections or bacteria that could be causing the problem. If this doesn’t turn up anything, your vet may also do a skin biopsy to rule out issues like cancer or more serious problems.
Your vet will also ask you about your dog’s routines and behaviors, to rule out psychological issues. If there is no bacteria or allergic reaction detected, this is the area that is most likely the cause of the lick granuloma. In this case, the vet will have to watch the dog’s behavior over time to determine if they have compulsive behaviors, if they are anxious, or if it’s something like boredom.
Lick Granuloma Dog Treatment
As we said at the start, there’s no one treatment for lick granuloma, because there are so many underlying causes. The one big thing that makes lick granuloma what is, is that no skin treatment has worked so far because your dog just keeps licking. So, while you can continue to treat the skin with medicated ointment, and continue to keep your dog from licking with a cone or something similar, once they are able to, they’ll just go back to licking.
Some things that owners have tried include:
- Applying aloe gel to soothe itching.
- Cleaning the area twice per day to help it heal faster.
- A cone collar to help them break the cycle of licking behavior.
- Antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medications to get rid of pain and infections.
- Supplements like omega-3 fatty acids may be used to help boost the healing process.
- Some medical procedures like laser therapy may be helpful as well.
- Medications to help with anxiety or obsessive compulsive behavior could be helpful for your dog.
- Incorporating more exercise and attention into your dog’s routine, as well as putting him on a busier routine to keep him from having time to lick, could be helpful.
- Cortisone injections may help to heal the area.
- Changing your dog’s diet to a non-allergenic diet may help.
Overall, the best treatment is likely to be a combination of many of these things and more. It will probably take trial and error to discover what exactly works for your dog. One thing that is certain is that you will need to be more attentive with your dog, not only to stop them from licking, but also to discover what the problem really is. You may need to send your dog to doggie day care if you have long work hours, or find a way to take your dog to work with you, if they have developed lick granuloma as a response to boredom and loneliness.
Additionally, treating any underlying causes of pain – such as arthritis or other illnesses – is also a way to help stop lick granuloma. If your vet suspects that a dog is licking to soothe other conditions, this should be something you tackle right away to save your dog’s skin.
Preventing Lick Granuloma
If you start to see your dog spending a little too long licking, and it appears that the area is getting balder or redder, there are some ways you can nip lick granuloma in the bud.
First, deal with the licking behavior right away. Don’t just let it go until you’re certain it’s a problem. A full-on infected lick granuloma sore can develop in just a few hours. Talk to the vet before there are obvious sores on your dog to get the best treatment. Check your dog for damp spots on their fur or areas where they seem sensitive to touch, if you don’t know where they’ve been licking exactly.
Start checking up on your dog more often if you’ve noticed this behavior. Don’t let him get out of sight for long periods of time. Chances are if he has privacy, he’s licking. You can also try wrapping the area where he’s been licking in an Ace bandage or in vet tape, to see if it stops him from licking. There are lick deterrents you can spray on the bandage as well that just taste really sour and gross, but don’t harm the dog if he ingests any of it.
Go ahead and put some of the treatments to work right now. Improve your dog’s diet to eliminated common allergens like gluten and artificial ingredients. Give them more attention and exercise. Get them on a routine that keeps them busy. Address any long workdays with a dog sitter or some other method. Be sure that your dog isn’t showing signs of injury or illness. Start training them and socializing them better. All of these things can help a dog stop obsessive licking and start focusing their attention elsewhere. If you have a working breed, give them something to do – for example, sign them up for canine obedience competitions, or find a job for them around the house.
While you can’t ever really prevent a dog from licking – because you can’t be with them 100% of the time – you can do a lot to stop them from developing severe lick granuloma with a bit more vigilance and attention.
The Final Word
To sum up what we learned in this article:
- Lick granuloma is a sore that is caused on the dog’s skin by excessively licking away the fur and the skin.
- Lick granuloma differs from other conditions like hot spots because unlike other conditions, lick granuloma doesn’t go away with medical ointments or other treatments. This is because the lick granulomais caused by a dog who won’t stop irritating the skin.
- There are a great many reasons why a dog may do this. They range from allergies and illness, to boredom and anxiety.
- Because there are so many causes of lick granuloma, the treatment options are varied. It can take a lot of trial and error to figure out the problem, and then to figure out the best way to fix it.
- However, the earlier you can get your dog to the vet when you see signs of excessive licking, the better the chances are that you’ll find the right treatment fast.
If your dog has been diagnosed with lick granuloma, you don’t have to worry. While there are some complications that can occur – namely, infections – and it can take time to find the right treatment, overall lick granuloma is something that can be managed. With careful attention to your dog, and increased veterinary attention, you’ll be able to discover what your dog needs to get over this behavior. You’ll also find ways that work for your dog to prevent them from making a specific area worse. Just be sure to watch your dog’s grooming habits, and pay attention to times when it seems to be getting excessive.