Is your dog constantly, almost obsessively, licking one area of their skin? As a result of this obsessive licking has the area become inflamed and now it can’t heal because your dog just can’t stop licking the area.
If so they may suffer from acral lick granuloma, also called:
- Lick granuloma
- Acral Lick Lesion
- Acral Pruritic Nodule
- Acral Lick Dermatitis
- Acral Lick
What is Acral Lick Granuloma
Acral lick granuloma is a skin condition that is seen in some dogs. The name stems from the location (acral – on the extremities) and the cause (licking).
Dogs that are affected by this usually lick at one spot. The most common location is the front limbs between the elbow and toes. They may spend hours engaged in licking this spot each day. An infected, non-healing wound is likely to arise at the site as a result. The wound may heal slightly and almost appear as if it is going to heal however the desire to lick the sight will re-emerge and the dog will begin licking again making it impossible for the wound to heal.
The spot itches and the dog keeps licking it. The continued licking leads to more itching and more licking. It’s a vicious cycle of itching and licking and can be very frustrating for both the poor puppy and the owner.
This can happen with any dog however middle-aged, large breed dogs are most often affected. Certain breeds that appear to be more prone to acral lick granulomas include:
- Doberman Pinscher
- German Shepherd
- Golden Retriever
- Labrador Retriever
- Irish Setter
Causes of Acral Lick Granuloma
There are a number of different factors that may lead to the development of acral lick granuloma. The condition is almost always self-perpetuating as once the wound is created it is a continual source of irritation and results in further licking and irritation. The licking can become such a habit that it continues even after the underlying cause is resolved.
Some of the believed factors, or underlying causes, that may contribute to acral lick granuloma in dogs include:
- Boredom: Many dermatologists believe that boredom is a major underlying factor in some cases as the licking activity helps pass the time. Energetic dogs that are left alone for much of the day may focus their attention on excessively licking the limb.
- Pain: Pain in a bone or joint may cause a dog to lick the area in an attempt to alleviate the discomfort they are feeling.
- Itching: An itchy skin condition, such as an allergy or a foreign body (such as a splinter or bee sting), may create stress in the skin resulting in inflammation and itching which can trigger the dog to lick the area.
- Hypothyroidism has been known to play a role in some cases as well. This is especially true for Black Labs.
- Psychological Causes such as:
- Stress and/or anxiety: A nervous dog may lick at a spot in an attempt to relieve their anxiety. This stress could be brought on by a number of things. Some examples include a new child or pet in the home, separation anxiety, changes in routine, or a neighbor dog invading their territory.
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder: Just like human, dogs can also suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorders. This disorder can cause a dog to lick at a specific spot in an obsessive fashion. The persistent licking may trigger the release of endorphins and as a result the dog learns to repeat the behavior to induce a pleasant sensation.
Diagnosing Lick Granuloma
If you suspect that your dog suffers from acral lick granuloma you will want to visit your vet to confirm this. Your vet will want to exam your dog to rule out any other potential issues such as an allergic disease that would need to be treated.
Your vet will exam your dog’s skin and discuss how much licking has been noted. A skin biopsy or other procedures may be done to ensure your dog does not have a similarly-appearing skin condition that would need to be treated differently. A specimen may be sent a lab to determine what kind of bacteria is present in the granuloma.
Your vet will review your dog’s personality, temperament, daily activities, concurrent skin condition, diet and allergies.
Diagnosing acral lick granuloma in your dog is rarely difficult however determining the cause can be a challenge, especially if this has been going on for some time before seeking help. The assessment of your dogs activities and personality will be helped to help determine the cause.
There are many different treatments available for a dog’s lick granuloma. The problem is that an effective treatment for one dog may not work for the next few dogs. There is no set treatment plan as every dog is different and the cause for each dog is different. It may take several different treatments before you and your vet find one that is effective for your dog. Some of the common treatments that are currently used to treat acral lick granulomas include:
- Antibiotics: This can be in the form of a pill or a topical ointment. The lick granuloma typically has an infection which contributes to the continued irritation and licking. These antibiotics are used to help fight the bacteria infection.
- Anti-inflammatory medications: This may be topical, oral or an injectable anti-inflammatory medication. This is used to help reduce the irritation.
- Other topical therapies: Sometimes a bitter spray is used to deter licking. A cream may also be used to numb the area.
- Electronic “bandages”: These produce a tingling sensation when licked and are used as another form of deterrent.
- Physical barriers: This typical includes bandages and/or plastic “Elizabethan collars” (more commonly known as cones). These are used to help prevent your dog’s ability to access the location and therefore prevent them from being able to lick the area. This is typically not suitable for long-term use.
- Surgery: Depending on how well other treatments have worked (or rather not worked) your vet may recommend surgery. The surgery is used to remove the infected tissue and seal off the nerve endings.
- Behavioral modification: This can be the most effective treatment as it is the only one in this list that actually works to address the underlying cause of the disease. Depending on the reason for your dog’s compulsive licking it may be recommended that your dog gets more time actively playing and/or walking or that you avoid confinement in kennels or crates.
Although some of the above treatments may work for your dog some of them also come with some side effects such as: vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, fatigue, a decrease in white blood cells, a decrease in globulins (a blood protein), and an increase in cholesterol.
The last three side effects listed above can be detrimental to your dog’s health and as a result many dog owners and vet have been looking for more natural and less harmful treatments. This is where CBD (or cannabidiol) comes in. CBD is natural and safe. This is a new treatment that can be used to help treat acral lick granuloma in your dog.
What is CBD?
CBD, short for cannabidiol, is an extract of cannabis and interacts with the endocannabinoid system (ECS) that is found in both humans and dogs. The ECS is a system that works to control and regulate the body and is responsible for a healthy function of a number of processes in the body. Some of these processes include: immune function, pain modulation, and mood and emotional states (just to name a few).
This system plays an important role and CBD works with this system to help obtain and maintain optimal performance.
Using CBD for your dog suffering from Acral Lick Granuloma
CBD can help to treat your dog’s acral lick granuloma by working with the ECS to help boost the immune system (fighting off infection), calming them (decrease anxiety) and promote overall health and wellness.
Any inflammation at the site of the licking can be helped with CBD. CBD has been found to be very helpful as an anti-inflammatory. Inflammation is a primary symptom of acral lick granuloma and CBD can be very helpful in reducing this issue.
CBD has been found to be very effective in decreasing pain as it works with the ECS which governs pain responses in the body. Pain and inflammation are almost always related and CBD has been found to be effective in treating both. The acral lick granuloma can cause your dog pain and discomfort and CBD can help with this.
CBD works with the ECS to decrease negative emotional states and therefore has been used to help keep dogs calm and ease their anxiety (sometimes keeping them anxiety free). This can help decrease their obsessive need for constant licking.
CBD can help with a number of the issues associated with your dog’s acral lick granuloma and is seen as a much safer option than many of the medications typically used. It is most effective when used with behavioral medication to treat the root cause of the condition. Some of these modifications may include: spending more time walking and/or playing with your dog (increasing stimulation), avoiding long-term confinement in crates/kennels and working to decrease feelings of anxiety.
CBD is viewed as a safe supplement for dogs. It is virtually impossible to overdose on as if you give your dog too much they will get sleepy and just sleep it off. It is also not psychoactive meaning it will not get your dog “high”. CBD that is extracted from hemp (rather than marijuana) contains less than 0.3% THC and therefore does not produce a “high” sensation and is safe for your dog.
If you suspect your dog has acral lick granuloma you should visit your vet to confirm and work on a treatment plan. Talk to your vet about using CBD as part of the plan as a safe alternative to other medications.
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