Causes of Acral Lick Dermatitis in Dogs

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This disorder, which is also known as lick granuloma or pruritic acral dermatitis, is a dermatological problem that can be difficult to cure, so a good veterinary examination is important.

In this article we will learn to identify it and, above all, to treat it, since for recovery not only drugs are prescribed, but we will have to take a series of measures at home.

Index of contents

  • 1 What is the cause of acral dermatitis?
  • 2 How is acral lick dermatitis identified?
  • 3 Can all dogs have lick acral dermatitis?
  • 4 Are the psychological aspects important in acral lick dermatitis?
  • 5 Is acral lick dermatitis cured?
  • 6 What is the treatment for acral lick dermatitis?

What is the cause of acral dermatitis?

Although it was attributed an exclusively psychological origin, due to boredom, anxiety or lack of stimuli in the dog’s life, the truth is that there seems to be some basic disorder that produces itching, hence the dog directs his licks to a certain area.

For example, a problem as common as canine atopy can cause damage that will itch the dog (itching is itchy). This will begin to scratch, nibble and lick the affected area and, in this way, perpetuates the injury, which will continue to lick, thus establishing a pathological circle.

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Some causes behind this type of dermatitis can be demodectic mange, infections caused by bacteria or fungi, any injury or trauma, adverse reactions to food, hypothyroidism, foreign bodies or, also, joint diseases that generate pain or discomfort.


How is acral lick dermatitis identified?

In this pathology we will observe a reddening of the skin, papules, pustules and welts. Above all, they will appear on the extremities, the tarsal area, the carpus, the back of the legs and the lower body area. Ends by form an open ulcer it does not heal because the dog licks it insistently.

We will be able to locate one or more lesions and it is not strange that they become infected. It is important to go to the vet because there are other skin problems that can cause similar injuries and it will be the vet who confirms or refutes the diagnosis.

The action of constant licking ends up causing the hair to fall out. In addition, saliva keeps the ulcer always shiny and clean. If this behavior is maintained over time, the affected skin ends up thickening, hardening, darkening and becoming insensitive to the touch, while still looking fresh because it will continue to lick.

Can all dogs have lick acral dermatitis?

The answer to this question is affirmative because all dogs can suffer from this disorder. Of course, it is more common in short-haired breeds such as the pinscher, the Great Dane or the labrador retriever.


Are the psychological aspects important in acral lick dermatitis?

Although the tendency is to think that there is always a physical cause that triggers these granulomas, psychological factors may come into play in the perpetuation of the lick. So the treatment has to be more than just pharmacological.

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The dog begins to lick an area because some discomfort demands its attention, but in the conversion of this lick into a habit, more psychological than physical events do matter.

Is acral lick dermatitis cured?

We must know that this dermatological problem is one of the most difficult to treat and to solve, perhaps due to the psychological implication involved. For this reason, in addition to prescribing a treatment for the injury and, if possible, its trigger for a time that is usually long, an intervention is necessary in the life of the dog.

This includes examining their lifestyle and routines. For example, a dog that spends many hours can only improve if we manage to increase the time he is accompanied. For some dogs the introduction of another animal in the home is a positive stimulus, although it is advisable to consult a professional before.

In cases where the treatment and changes in the dog’s environment do not give the expected results, we can resort to application of calming pheromones in any of its formats such as sprayer, collar or food. In the latter case, the veterinaryn can assess the use of drugs with the aim of reducing the dog’s stress.


What is the treatment for acral lick dermatitis?

The most important thing to treat this skin disorder is to discover the cause behind that first discomfort that triggers the start of the lick. To try to find this cause, the vet will review the dog’s medical history. We must provide you with the most comprehensive information possible.

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Obviously, if the examination of the dog reveals the presence of any disease such as those we have mentioned as causes, the veterinaryn will prescribe the appropriate protocol. In addition, it is possible to schedule an ulcer treatment and avoid scratching based on anti-inflammatory, topical or injectable. An Elizabethan necklace may be required.

In some cases you can even resort to surgery or cryotherapy techniques, to be possible. Acupuncture can also be used in the treatment of this dermatitis. You should know that this is not always successful and it is recommended that it be accompanied by a change in the dog’s routine.