A lick granuloma is an open sore,
usually at the ankle or wrist, perpetuated by constant licking. It is seen most
often in large, shorthaired dogs such as Doberman
Pinschers, Great Danes, Labrador Retrievers, and bird dogs.
At one time, lick sores were thought to be psychogenic in origin and related
to boredom and inactivity. It now appears that many cases are preceded by an
itchy skin disease (such as canine atopy) that starts the
lick cycle. Other possible initiating causes include demodectic mange, a bacterial
or fungal infection, prior trauma, and underlying joint disease. The
precipitating event focuses the dog’s attention on the area. The licking then
becomes a habit that may be perpetuated by psychological events, so behavior
may still be a factor.
Dogs naturally lose old or damaged hair by shedding. Although shedding is a normal process for dogs, the amount and frequency of hair that is shed often depends upon their health and breed type. It can also depend on the season-many dogs develop thick coats in the winter that are then shed in the spring. Dogs who are always kept indoors, however, are prone to smaller fluctuations in coat thickness and tend to shed fairly evenly all year.
As the dog licks at her wrist or ankle, the hair is rubbed off and the
surface of the skin becomes red and shiny. Eventually, the skin becomes raised,
thick, hard, and insensitive to pressure. However, it remains fresh-looking
from the constant licking. Some dogs will lick long enough and hard enough to
cause breaks in the skin and serious wounds.
Treatment: It is important to review the course of events in an attempt to
identify the precipitating cause. If a disease such as canine atopy is
diagnosed, medical treatment is directed toward that condition.
Local treatment may involve the use of topical and injectable steroids, radiation therapy, bandaging,
surgical removal, cryotherapy, and acupuncture. Some dogs will require antibiotics due to secondary
infections. Results are variable. The lick granuloma is one of the most
difficult skin problems to treat successfully.
Because lick sores are perpetuated by psychogenic factors, a change in the
dog’s routine or lifestyle should be part of the treatment program. For
example, some arrangement may need to be made to provide company for the dog
when the owner is away. A new puppy in the house may
provide companionship and entertain an older dog. Behavior-modifying drugs may
be beneficial in some cases.
WebMD Veterinary Reference from "Dog Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook"