What is Lick Granuloma in dogs?
Lick Granuloma in dogs can be a serious problem for both the dogs and their owners — both behaviorally and medically. However, several things can be done to help alleviate this troubling issue. Lick Granuloma occurs when a dog begins to lick at an area to the point of creating a pressure sore that may ooze debris or bleed. The cause is usually started by an underlying health condition at first- such as an allergy, abscess or just an itch on the body. However, this licking can quickly become a behavioral issue, even once the initial cause is cared for.
When your dog licks at an area, he introduces a myriad of bacteria and other micro-organisms via his tongue and saliva. Contrary to popular belief, dog tongues actually house lots of these bacteria, which can then spread in between small cuts, scrapes or cracks in the skin. As your dog licks, he weakens the skin on the area he is licking, causing more cracks (and more places for bacteria) to form. After a while, the wound will open, and may become a sore or other painful mass. As the area attempts to heal, granulation tissue forms, however it is never allowed to finish healing due to the continued licking of the dog.
How can I prevent Lick Granuloma in dogs?
Preventing skin conditions from forming is usually the first line of defense in preventing a lick granuloma in dogs. If allergies or skin infections are suspected, treatment such as antihistamines or an antibiotic to clear up the infection can help prevent itching and irritation leading to licking. If the wound has progressed to the point of irritation to start a licking habit, owners can use an Elizabethan collar or a T-shirt (depending on the location of the irritation) to help prevent their dog from licking and further irritating the spot. This can both allow the irritated skin to properly heal, as well as prevent the licking behavior from forming.
Lick Granuloma in dogs can also sometimes have a non health-related start to them. Dogs that are very active, stressed or those that have issues such as separation anxiety may begin to lick as a way to alleviate that boredom or stress. For these dogs, providing ways of burning off excess energy (through longer walks or trips to the park) or alleviating boredom are key to preventing a granuloma. Dogs with separation anxiety may be distracted with a calming radio or TV playing, or through the use of puzzle toys to provide treats and entertainment when left alone. Stressed animals may need calming aids such as chemical medications or a pheromone diffuser to help during the stressful period.
What should I do If I suspect Lick Granuloma in my dog?
If licking has progressed to the point that an open sore or other major irritation has formed, it is best to have the area examined by your veterinarian. Your vet may perform a series of tests including skin scrapings or blood work, depending on the suspected underlying cause. Treating any underlying issues in addition to the lick granuloma will help prevent further occurrence. The actual granuloma should also be treated for any secondary infections with the use of antibiotics or steroids as needed.
If the licking continues even after the area has healed some, there are several treatments that can be used to help curb the behavior. Elizabethan collars and T-shirts are great tools for preventing licking, as well as bandaging affected areas to prevent the tongue from getting to it. Several veterinary supply companies have recently come out with a “no lick” bandage material, that sends either a minor shock or a distasteful flavor to your dog upon licking. This creates a positive punishment style training, that discourages dogs from continuing to lick the area. After a period of time, the bandaging and other materials can be removed so that your dog can return to his normal activities- without licking.
Natural remedies for treating Lick Granuloma in dogs
Treating underlying issues with natural remedies are a great way to prevent a lick granuloma from starting. Natural herbs such as chickweed and calendula can be used to make salves and placed on areas of irritation or itching. Immune boosters are another great way of preventing skin irritation and infection. Garlic and Echinacea supplements can be added to a daily routine to help boost the immune system.
If licking has started, natural deterrents such as hot sauces or bitter flavors, as well as tools such as an Elizabethan collar or T-shirt can help deter licking. Preventing the behavior, and the granuloma, before it gets to a need to treat stage, is the best natural way of caring for it. Stressed pets can be given supplements such as B vitamins to help alleviate and calm, while Chamomile and Hyssop can help anxious pets and those with separation anxiety.