Lick Granulomas (Acral Lick Dermatitis) in Dogs

Acral lick dermatitis is a common dog skin condition caused by incessant, excessive licking, resulting in chronic skin lesions, usually in the limbs. This page looks at some possible causes and how natural remedies such as herbs, homeopathy, flower essences, and supplements can help dogs with this skin problem.

Chihuahua A lick granuloma results from a dog constantly licking a certain area of his body, usually the front part of the lower leg. Constant licking leads to hair loss and skin irritation.

As the problem worsens, the skin becomes red, raised, ulcerated and infected. Because of the constant licking, the ulceration and infection cannot heal easily.

Instead, the condition continues to worsen until the nerves become inflamed, causing the area to be so itchy that the dog licks it even more incessantly. Thus begins a vicious cycle and the condition becomes chronic.

Acral lick dermatitis can develop in any dogs, but some breeds tend to be predisposed. Usually, dogs affected are middle-aged, large breed dogs such as the Retrievers, German Shepherds, Boxers, among others.

Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment of Lick Granulomas

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Possible Causes of Lick Granulomas in Dogs

It is not clear as to what exactly causes this problem in dogs, although many veterinarians believe that a combination of medical and psychological factors are responsible, thus adding to the complexity of the problem.

One theory about the cause of lick granulomas is that, licking causes the release of endorphins in the dog's brain. Endorphins are brain chemical compounds that make us (and apparently dogs) feel good. The dog soon comes to associate licking with feeling good; therefore he keeps on licking.

Dogs may also lick themselves due to some other psychological/behavioral problems such as separation anxiety, boredom, and stress. These dogs relieve their stress by picking out new areas to focus on, then lick them for extended periods of time.

Physically, acral lick dermatitis can be triggered by the following:

  • Allergies: Lick granulomas can occur as a result of allergies. Allergies bring about inflamed, itchy skin causing the dog to begin licking. In this case, appropriate treatment for the allergy usually resolves the problem.
  • Arthritis and Pain: Lick granulomas can also be a result of pain due to an arthritic knee or ankle, sore muscles, or pain from trauma, or old wounds.
  • Foreign Objects: A foreign object such as a splinter can get the dog focused on that particular spot. The dog will then start licking it in an attempt to remove the object and reduce the pain and discomfort.
  • Fungal Infections: Deep seated fungal infections, such as ringworm, can initiate the licking problem as well.
  • Cancer: Skin cancer can cause chronic lesions that are uncomfortable and can lead to chronic licking.

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Symptoms of Canine Lick Granulomas

The most obvious and consistent symptom is excessive licking of the front and rear legs. In severe cases, lameness could occur due to infected skin, causing the dog to be lethargic.

Treatment for Lick Granulomas in Dogs

A wide array of conventional treatment is used to deal with this skin condition in dogs. Once diagnosed, the underlying problem that is causing the licking (e.g. allergies, arthrits, etc.) in the first place will be treated.

In addition, the secondary problems (licking and skin lesions) are tackled, most commonly by antibiotics, and/or anti-inflammatory medications.

In serious cases, rather harsh methods such as laser and surgery will also be employed.

If the licking is a result of behavioral problems, behavioral modification medications will be prescribed.

An Elizabeth collar may also be used to prevent the dog from licking.

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Natural Remedies That May Help

Once the underlying cause has been diagnosed, natural remedies can be used to treat the root cause, and at the same time, natural remedies can also be used to stop the licking and heal the lesions.

Herbal Remedies to Heal Skin Lesions

Herbs that have astringent, anti-bacterial, and wound-healing properties are ideal to heal skin lesions that are red, itchy, and inflammed. Some such herbs include:


For skin that is red and itchy, try using a calendula tea rinse. Calendula has anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal properties and it is very effective in wound-healing.

To make a calendula rinse, steep a handful of calendula flowers in a cup of hot water and let the tea cool down. Use the tea as a rinse, apply it to the affected area, and let it drip dry. Repeat two to three times a day.

Green Tea

A green tea poultice can be applied topically to badly inflammed areas after the dog is shampooed and the skin is dried off. Green tea contains tannic acid which can dry up moist areas caused by inflammation.

To make a green tea poultice, steep a couple of green tea bags in a cup of hot water and let the tea cool down. Use the tea as a poultice and apply it to the affected area. Repeat two to three times a day.


For skin with open scratches, scabs, or oozing wounds, use equal parts of yarrow and calendula tea to make a rinse. Yarrow is a very effective healing herb and when used in combination with calendula, the mixture will speed up the healing process and inhibit bacterial infection.

Herbal Honey

Herbal honey can easily be made and used to treat skin problems and infections such as lick granulomas. Honey is antibacterial and is excellent for wound healing.

Supplements for Healthy Dog Skin

Fatty Acids

Dogs with healthy non-itchy skin seldom develop lick granulomas. One essential supplement that strengthens the dog skin is Omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish oil or flaxseed oil. It is therefore important to give our dogs fatty acids to ensure they have healthy skin.

Vitamins A and E

Another important element for healthy dog skin is vitamins, especially vitamins A and E. These two vitamins are antioxidants. Vitamin A is essential for healthy hair and skin; vitamin E is anti-inflammatory and can prevent and improve chronic skin problems.

Other Remedies for Lick Granulomas


The homeopathic remedy, Arsenica album (30c), helps alleviate itching and thus can reduce constant chewing and licking.

Flower Essences

If your dog have lick granulomas caused by behavioral problems such as anxiety or stress, try using Bach Flower Essences Rescue Remedy. Add three drops to your dog's water bowl, three to four times daily, and you can see your dog gradually calm down and relax.

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