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Beaver Lake Animal Hospital
26325 SE 39th Street
Issaquah, WA 98029

Beaver Lake Animal Hospital

26325 SE 39th Street
Issaquah, WA 98029



Acral Lick Dermatitis


(lick granuloma)


General Information


Acral dermatitis is a psychological problem with a secondary skin condition resulting from repeated licking.  The licking will stimulate a histamine release at the site, causing itchiness.  This sets of the continued licking to alleviate the itch.   At first there is only a small area of hair loss, but with constant licking, a thickened, raised plaque develops.  Often this raised sore is raw, inflamed and ulcerated.  Lick granulomas occur primarily in dogs left alone for long periods.  Boredom is usually responsible for the licking habit.  Certain breeds, such as Dobermans, Great Danes, Labrador Retrievers, Irish Setters and German Shepherds, are more likely to develop the condition.  Many of these breeds have underlying obsessive-compulsive traits. While the condition can occur at any age, most dogs are over 5 years old when the sores first appear.  Most of these dogs were previously very active.  They served their owners in many ways.  Frequently, as they age, their home situation may change.  They may not have the attention they were once given.  They are not receiving the mental and physical exercise they once were offered, add this to the need to serve their owner, the dedication to protect, and their ability to pickup on the owners' stresses, and you have a bored, stressed pet.   Without adequate exercise, these animals spend more time in an awake, bored state.  Regular exercise, physical and mental, allows the pet to sleep, and to release stress.


Causes of stress include a new pet or baby in the home, the death or absence of a family member or a companion dog, or a nearby female dog that is "in heat."  Many times dogs pick up on our stress.  For instance, family members may enter or leave the household.  Our employment may change; finances may get tough leading to our own stress.  Dogs pick up on these things and may worry.  Additionally, physical pain can cause stress.  Obviously, many things could be upsetting or stressful to dogs left alone or confined for long periods.  It is important to understand that the dog's problem is psychological and not physical.  A complete physical exam will be completed to rule out physical disease or pain.  A thorough analysis of the dog's environment is necessary to determine the cause.


Important Points in Treatment


1.  Lick granuloma is very difficult to treat. Initial treatment may continue for many months, until the skin again looks normal.  If the underlying psychogenic cause cannot be corrected, the lick sore may never be cured.  If controlled, Lick granulomas may return if the dog again suffers from boredom or anxiety.

2.  Medication must be given as directed.  Notify the doctor if you cannot carry out any prescribed treatment.  The dog must be distracted for at least 10 minutes (a good time to play with your dog) after administration of topical medications, to allow the medicines to saturate.  Apply topical medication with a Q-Tip, or use gloves.

3.  Exercise: Whenever possible, exercise your dog and spend more time with it to keep its mind off licking.  Mental exercise is equally important.  Review obedience training exercises with your dog.  Teach new tricks.  Allow the dog to do what he was born to do, serve you.   Find out what more your dog can do for you.

4.  If an antianxiety medication, or anti-obsessive/compulsive medication is to be used, an initial blood profile will be required, with regular recheck appointments and lab work.

5.  Various treatments are used in treating lick granulomas.  They include lotions, creams, pills, injections, bandages or other devices to prevent licking, surgical removal of sores, and mood-altering drugs, such as tranquilizers and barbiturates.  The treatment depends on such factors as the size and severity of the granuloma, chances for eliminating the psychological causes, length of time the dog has been affected, and time available for the owner to work with the dog.  Please feel free to discuss any aspects of the treatment with the doctor.


Notify the Doctor if Any of the Following Occur:


* Your dog continues to lick the sore.

* Your dog's sore enlarges.

* Your dog's sore is red, hot or swollen, or oozes fluid or pus.

* Your dog removes any protective bandages or wraps.