Many things may get your dog started licking such as itchiness from allergies, arthritis or even boredom. Sometimes no cause is found. This is considered to be a compulsive behavior and many dogs that get lick granulomas have underlying anxiety-based behavior disorders. Once a dog gets going on a lick granuloma it is self-perpetuating. Damaged cells and nerves release endorphins which make the dog feel good (like a runner’s high) and broken hairs and infection make the lesion even itchier.
To diagnose this condition you veterinarian may have a good idea what is going on from the appearance of the lesion but may need to do some additional tests such as a biopsy or skin culture. Additional testing may be performed for allergies, skin parasites and other types of infections. Your vet will also ask questions about your dog’s personality and habits to help determine if there is an underlying anxiety disorder.
Treatment consists of several therapies. Antibiotics are started and often need to be continued for many weeks. A physical barrier such as an Elizabethan Collar, bootie or bandage will prevent licking long enough to allow healing. Steroids, either by mouth or applied to the lesion will provide comfort. It is common to also need some type of behavioral medication to reduce anxiety or block endorphins. Any concurrent or predisposing conditions identified will also need to be treated. Behavior modification therapy at home may be needed to address underlying anxiety. Good nutrition, regular exercise and a safe home environment are always helpful. In rare cases additional treatments such as laser therapy may be beneficial.
Even with the best medical treatment cases of lick granuloma may relapse. This is a very difficult condition to cure. Although this is a very frustrating condition that cannot always be cured it is usually manageable. Clients that are willing to work closely with their veterinarian and beloved canine often can see very good results from treatment of this problem. Most dogs with this condition can have comfortable and happy lives.