Has your dog ever lick-lick-licked himself raw? I have to watch Magic because he has a tendency to lick his paws or legs quite a bit, especially in the evenings when winding down for the night. My first shepherd developed ulcers on his paws and between the toes he continually licked. His were a consequence of severe atopic allergy, so I’m pretty sensitive to the tendency and interrupt the behavior.
Lick sores, technically termed lick granulomas, are pretty common and can develop from any minor injury from bug bite to a thorn. They can continue due to canine boredom. The affected dog incessantly licks a selected area, usually on a lower leg, which creates a raised, hairless ulcerative plaque — almost a callus that surrounds the never-healing sore. The constant licking makes the area itch and can cause secondary bacterial infection. This prompts further licking to relieve the itch, and a vicious cycle is created.
Any dog can be affected, but the condition most commonly affects older dogs. The syndrome is often seen in large active-breed dogs that demand a lot of owner interaction, such as Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, Doberman Pinchers, Great Danes, and–YEP–German Shepherd Dogs.
Diagnosis is based on the clinical signs, history, and microscopic examination of the lesion (biopsy). Treatment is difficult, and some dogs may never be completely cured. Infections may respond to antibiotics, and steroid injections may temporarily soothe itchiness.
There are some pain reliever/anti-inflammatory ointments that can help break the itch/lick cycle. Some newer “liquid bandage” materials may help. When the behavior stems from boredom, the best treatment is to give the dog something better to do with his time. Here are some tips for relieving doggy boredom.
The habit may be interrupted in some dogs through the use of veterinary prescribed drugs. Behavior drugs used in treating obsessive/compulsive disorders may be effective in certain instances.
Do your dogs lick or chew excessively? How do you manage the behavior? What successful treatment has your veterinarian prescribe? Please share!
This is a topic I’m covering in the future release of my updated PURINA ENCYCLOPEDIA OF DOG CARE. I’d LOVE to have your discussion/opinions for possible inclusion so fire away in the comments!
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