Acral lick granulomas (aka acral pruritic dermatitis) are open sores usually found at a dog’s wrist or the ankle, caused by constant excessive licking which leads to skin problems such as irritation and infections, which eventually may cause hair loss.
As the licking continues, the affected area will suffer from hair loss and the exposed skin surface will become red, shiny, and inflammed. As the problem becomes worse, the skin will be thickened, ulcerated and possibly infected.
Acral lick granuloma is a chronic condition that is very difficult to cure.
For some reason, large breed dogs with short hair (e.g. Doberman Pinschers, Great Danes) tend to have this condition.
Causes of Acral Lick Granuloma in Dogs
Lick granulomas were once suspected to be psychological, caused by boredom, inactivity, and/or anxiety.
Now it is believed that many cases are in fact caused by an underlying physical problem, such as skin allergy.
This primary skin problem may have drawn the dog’s attention to one area, causing the dog to constantly lick and chew that area. Eventually, the licking may become a habit, especially if the dog also has psychological issues (such as stress or boredom).
Possible physical problems that may initiate the lick cycle include:
- Skin Irritations: Skin problems, most commonly canine atopy, cause itching and start the lick cycle. Other itchy skin irritations, such as scabies, flea and food allergies, etc., can also cause a dog to lick himself excessively.
- Bacterial or Fungal Infections: Chronic and hard-to-cure infections, such as ringworm, can also be a contributing cause to this problem.
- Joint Problems: An underlying joint problem, such as osteoarthritis, causes pain. Dogs tend to lick the area where there is pain and this can develop into chronic licking.
- Skin Cancer: Skin cancer can cause chronic and sometimes painful skin lesions and can lead to obsessive licking as well.
Treatment of Acral Lick Granuloma in Dogs
This skin problem is considered to be one of the most difficult skin problems to treat successfully.
To completely treat lick granulomas, it is important to identify and treat the underlying problem so that the root cause can be removed.
To treat local symptoms, various therapies can be used depending on the seriousness of the condition. Topical treatment includes the use of anti-inflammatory medications such as corticosteroids, antibiotics for secondary infections, and bandaging.
In more serious cases, radiation therapy, surgical removal, and cryotherapy may be needed.
Because psychological factors may also be a perpetuating factor, it is important to also examine (and if necessary address) the dog’s lifestyle.
For example, if boredom is a possible factor, regular exercises and physical activities should become part of the treatment. Some dogs may benefit from behavioral-modifying medications.
Natural Products for Acral Lick Granuloma in Dogs
Topically, if you do not want to use strong medications such as steroids, try Dr. Harvey’s Organic First Aid Healing Cream for Dogs.
This cream contains natural ingredients such as tea tree oil and extracts of the herbs calendula, goldenseal, and comfrey, all of which have antibacterial and anti-viral properties. It heals wounds quickly and at the same time soothes the skin and relieves itching.
Salmon oil such as this Grizzly Salmon Oil is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory properties and are essential in supporting and maintaining healthy, non-itching skin.
Vitamins A, C and E
These vitamins are all powerful antioxidants. In addition, vitamin A facilitates wound healing; whereas vitamin C may supports the immune system and helps relieve allergies. Vitamin E is anti-inflammatory and is good for skin infections.