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Preventing the Lick: Understanding Dog Lick Granuloma

by Geoff Works |

Licking is part of your dog’s natural behavior. They often lick themselves for grooming or out of boredom. However, excessive licking can be a sign of lick granuloma. This condition, otherwise called acral lick dermatitis, can be physical or psychological and in some cases both.

Lick granuloma could lead to skin irritation if left untreated and get worse over time. Once your dog keeps licking the affected area, the skin becomes inflamed and infected, triggering more licking and irritation.

In this blog, we’ll be looking at the signs, causes, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of lick granuloma in dogs. 

Acral Lick Dermatitis: Commonly Affected Breeds

While all dogs can be affected by lick granuloma, it’s often observed in large breeds and middle-aged or older dogs. Among these breeds include:

  • Akitas
  • Boxers
  • Dalmatians
  • Doberman Pinschers
  • English Setters
  • Great Danes
  • Golden Retrievers
  • Irish Setters
  • Labrador
  • Shar-Pei
  • Weimaraners

Note that both males and females are equally affected by the condition. While the breeds mentioned above are more prone to lick granuloma, every dog can still suffer from it.

Causes of Lick Granuloma

As previously described, acral lick dermatitis is self-inflicted due to numerous physical or psychological factors. Your dog will obsess over a certain area in their body to the point that the hair falls out and the skin underneath reddens and becomes inflamed. The cause of that obsession could be rooted in the following:

  • Skin allergies
  • Skin trauma like bites, lesions, bruises
  • Fungal or bacterial infections
  • Skin mites
  • Skin cancer
  • Cushing’s syndrome or hyperadrenocorticism
  • Sharp splinters stuck under the skin
  • Peripheral neuropathy
  • Nerve impingement
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Lack of physical activity 

Symptoms of Lick Granuloma

The most common sign of this condition is a reddened or inflamed area in the skin with a patch of hair loss. The affected areas can be found on the legs, wrists, ankles, and between the toes.

It can also occur in multiple locations at once, depending on the severity of their behavior. Once observed, it’s best to take your dog to the vet to determine the exact cause of the lick granuloma.

Diagnosing the Cause of Acral Lick Granuloma

Your vet will conduct an initial checkup to evaluate the condition. They’ll ask when the behavior started, your dog’s usual diet, the surrounding areas where you live, previous injuries, and the like. These questions will help your vet rule out other possible causes like fleas and food allergies. After that, your dog will undergo any of the following tests to narrow down the causes of lick granuloma further:

  • Skin scraping
  • Skin biopsy
  • Blood work
  • X-rays
  • Allergy tests
  • Neurological tests
  • Orthopedic exams
  • Behavioral evaluation

Once the cause has been identified, your vet will recommend a treatment program based on the current condition of your dog.

Possible Treatments


The treatment will mainly focus on the skin of the affected area and the main root of the behavior. This may include topical ointments, steroids, antibiotics, and anti-inflammatory medications. The ointments should prevent the dog from licking the area. A buster collar is a typical choice for dog owners. Other options include a leg sleeve so your dog’s movements aren’t restricted.

Diet and Medications

If your vet suspects that the granuloma is due to an allergy, your vet can prescribe various medicines and subject your dog to a specific diet. Antibiotics and antihistamines should also be expected to address allergies and skin infections. The prices will depend on the prescribed medication, your dog’s size, and treatment duration.

If the cause is psychological, there are also drugs geared for such treatment. Naltrexone is a common example as it can help with compulsive behavior like lick granuloma or chronic tail-chasing behavior. This drug will help your dog calm down and prevent them from injuring themselves even further.

Lick Granuloma Home Remedies

Apart from ointment and medications, there are also home remedies for lick granuloma. One of these is Manuka honey that has antiviral, antifungal, and antibacterial properties.

Aloe Vera and chamomile are also options for treating lick granuloma. However, these can be toxic to your dog if given in large doses. It’s best to talk to your vet first before you start using this on your pet to avoid worsening their condition and encountering other possible complications.

How to Prevent Lick Granuloma 

Similar to most illnesses, addressing the problem as early as possible is the best way to stop its progression. When you notice that your dog has been obsessively licking its legs or other parts of the body, keep an eye out for it. If the licking persists, it’s time to consult your vet. Having your dog undergo exams will help rule out the cause and address the problem before it spirals out of control.

You’ll also want to clean your surroundings to get rid of any fungal or bacterial infestation that could worsen the condition. Having a clean environment will help prevent other factors that contribute to causing lick granuloma and other ailments that your dog might get.

But if an extensive examination has been conducted but the exact cause hasn’t been identified, the trigger may be stress and anxiety. Your best bet is to have more physical activities for your dog to distract them from the obsessive behavior and dedicate their energy to healthier means. Keeping your dog active also prevents the onset of other physical complications while keeping them happy.

Your vet will help you create a specific program for your dog that will then be evaluated in the coming weeks. In the meantime, it’s best to address the skin irritation caused by the lick granuloma as soon as possible using the treatments mentioned above. Preventing your dog from aggravating the affected area from excessive licking will help the wound recover fast and healthy.

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