Sometimes, dogs do things that seem odd to the human eye. Many of their actions are harmless and can be chalked up to natural curiosity. However, these “strange actions” can often become compulsory. Excessive licking at the skin is a common compulsion among dogs. While this may seem like a simple habit, it can have painful consequences.
What Is Acral Lick Dermatitis?
Acral lick dermatitis, or lick granuloma, is a dermal inflammation caused by excessive licking of one concentrated area. It is most common on the feet and legs. Keep an eye out for constant licking or biting, thick skin, and/or baldness. Eventually, the granuloma may appear as a lesion on the skin, and it may be wet or leaking.
What Causes Excessive Licking?
The most common cause of acral lick dermatitis is an undiagnosed allergy. Food allergies give dogs itchy skin that they may feel compelled to lick or pull at. For more information, see our blog on canine food allergies. Other skin conditions such as flea exposure or bacterial infection may also cause itchy skin.
Discomfort of another sort may cause excessive licking. Post-surgical pain or arthritis are only some examples of these uncomfortable conditions. In rare cases, it may indicate more serious ailments such as nerve damage or cancer.
Your dog’s compulsion may also be psychological. For example, licking can be an indicator for obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Alternatively, a stressed dog may develop anxiety, for which excessive licking can become an unlikely source of endorphin release. There are a large number of psychological factors that may eventually lead to acral lick dermatitis.
Whatever the case, it is very important to identify your dog’s specific cause. Every case is different, and acral lick dermatitis is effectively just a side effect of something else. It will be in your pup’s best interest to address the cause rather than simply treating symptoms.
Usually, vets will prescribe antibiotics to treat acral lick dermatitis. These fight secondary bacterial infections, usually over long-term use. Other possible medications include anti-inflammatory medications or topical treatments. Regardless, the vet will probably give your dog an Elizabethan collar to stop them from licking the affected area. Unfortunately, this is a short-term solution. The best possible treatment is to address and treat your dog’s specific cause for excessively licking.
Claws N Paws Day Spa owns and operates a full-service pet grooming salon in Orange County, California. For more information or to make an appointment, contact us at 714-962-1005 or visit our location in Fountain Valley.