Lick granuloma (acral lick granuloma, acral lick dermatitis) is a common, stubborn skin disease that is directly caused by the dog licking an area of the body, usually the lower leg. Lick granulomas may be mistaken for neoplasms and foreign body granulomas.
- Atopy (atopic dermatitis)
- Flea bite sensitivity
- Food allergy
- Emotional/behavioral problems
- Staphylococcal furunculosis
Both males and females can have lick granulomas, but males have a higher incidence. Any age dog can be affected, but mature or old dogs are more commonly affected. Breeds commonly affected include (but are not limited to): Doberman pinscher. German shepherd, German short haired pointer, Golden retriever, Great Dane, Irish setter, Labrador retriever, and Pointer.
Signs include hair discoloration, hair loss, skin sores, hyperplasia (an abnormal increase in the number of normal cells), fibrosis (formation of fibrous skin and tissue similar to gristle), lameness caused by the mass, and growth of the underlying bone. The lesions are usually solitary, but they can occur on more than one limb at the same time. The areas most frequently affected are the front and sides of the lower legs. In rare cases, lick granulomas can occur in the flank or at the base of the tail.
During a physical examination, the veterinarian will see a thick dermal plaque that does not have hair and is inflamed on an extremity that the dog is constantly licking. A confirmatory biopsy may be taken by the veterinarian.
- Treating the inciting cause
- Identifying and correcting the psychogenic causes by increasing the amount of human contact, changing kennelling habits, providing other animal companionship, distracting with chew toys, etc.
- Medical treatment options (including sedatives/tranquilizers, endorphin blockers, corticosteroids, antidepressants, and pentoxifylline).
- Surgical removal of the lesion
- Radiation therapy
- Applying bad-tasting substances to the granuloma
NOTE: No treatment is uniformly successful. This disease is hard to control or cure. Many different methods may need to be tried when attempting treatment