Acral lick granuloma, also known as acral lick dermatitis, is a skin condition that typically affects the lower part of a dog's legs and feet. While brought on by chronic licking, there is typically an underlying factor that prompts the dog to focus on licking the area to excess.
Symptoms of Acral Lick Granuloma
Acral lick granuloma is easy to recognize, but often difficult to resolve. If your dog is continually licking certain areas of his feet and legs, it’s time to take a closer look at those areas. The most noticeable symptom is a loss of hair in the affected area caused by the constant licking. On closer examination, you may notice the following symptoms as well.
- Your dog’s skin will often look red and irritated because of the licking.
- The skin will thicken because of the licking and as the condition progresses, develops raised bumps.
- The skin typically develops lesions, which leave the skin open to infection.
Causes of Acral Lick Granuloma
There are a variety of reasons why your dog may begin to continually lick at his legs and feet. Because he feels relief from the licking, even a sense of well-being, he may continue to aggressively lick those areas. Lick granulomas can be caused by several conditions.
- Allergic dermatitis is often considered to be the primary cause of lick granulomas. Because your dog is experiencing itching caused by the allergies, his way of finding relief is through licking.
- Arthritis can prompt your dog to lick, especially if he is experiencing pain in a joint close to the impacted area. While the licking doesn’t cure the arthritis, your dog does experience a sense of calming and some relief, promoting him to continue licking.
- Ectoparasites can promote excessive licking. These external parasites cause the skin to itch, prompting the licking.
- Fungal infections can bring on itching and irritation, prompting your dog to continually lick areas and cause the lick granulomas to develop.
- Neuropathy, or inflammation of the nerves under the skin, can promote excessive licking.
- Psychological issues can prompt a dog to continually lick. Separation anxiety, depression or general stress can bring on aggressive licking, especially if your dog derives a calming or soothing effect when he licks his legs and feet.
- Skin cancer can cause your dog to lick an area until it is raw and irritated.
Treatment for Acral Lick Granuloma
Because lick granuloma has a variety of causes, treatment varies greatly. The primary goal, no matter the cause, is to break the cycle of excessive licking. This often involves using an Elizabethan collar to prevent your dog from being able to reach the affected areas. At the same time, treatment should begin in order to resolve the cause. This can include antibiotics for any infections, treatment for parasites or anti-inflammatories. In cases of psychological causes, your vet may choose to prescribe anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medications to help your dog overcome the stress and anxiety. As the cause of the itching and irritation is resolved, your dog’s desire to lick the area should subside.
Acral lick granuloma can be a difficult condition to cure, especially if it's progressed to the point that your dog derives soothing and calm from the licking activity. As the underlying condition is treated and the itching goes away, your dog will hopefully stop licking the area excessively, and his skin and coat will have a chance to heal.