Dr. Dolittler

Dog’s incessant licking leaves legs wounded



Q. My dog keeps getting these wounds on her front legs. Last year it was up above her wrist and this year it’s closer to her toes. I’ve tried everything the vets have recommended and it keeps coming back every few months. I’m at my wits’ end.

I don’t blame you. This condition is on my Top 10 list of most frustrating afflictions to treat.

Acral lick dermatitis, also known as an acral lick granuloma, is a skin condition in dogs caused by excessive licking in one or more spots, usually on the front of the forelimbs, as you’ve described.

Dogs will lick one or more areas incessantly, which leads to hair loss, open sores and infection — which leads to even more licking. It’s thought that this cycle of self-trauma is also perpetuated by the release of endorphins when dogs lick these areas.

Though this is skin condition, the fact that most of these dogs seem to suffer from a compulsion to lick leads us to classify it as a behavioral disorder as well. In fact, more than 50 percent of dogs with acral lick dermatitis also suffer from fear- or anxiety-based conditions as well (e.g., separation anxiety, thunderstorm phobia, fear aggression).

Underlying allergies or arthritis pain, among other issues, may also be associated with it.

What’s a devoted dog owner to do?

Veterinary dermatologists tend to opt for treating the infection with antibiotics. Corticosteroids may also be recommended.

Behaviorists tend to focus on behavior modification, and sometimes employing drugs that have been shown to help dogs with fear, anxiety, and/or obsessive/compulsive disorders.

But all veterinarians tend to focus first on deterrence — special collars, bandages, and/or muzzles. Such measures are typically employed for a only short period of time, until other measures take effect.

Laser therapy and other less common alternatives are sometimes also offered.

Dr. Patty Khuly has a veterinary practice in South Miami and blogs at www.dolittler.com. Send questions to khulyp@bellsouth.net, or Dr. Dolittler, Tropical Life, The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, FL 33132.

Read more Pets stories from the Miami Herald

  • Animal Island: Rug-pulling cat needs his own carpet to claw

    Q: My 14-year-old male cat keeps pulling up threads on new carpet on my previously wood stairs. Please help! What can I do or use to prevent this from continuing? I have been clipping his nails regularly. I have aluminum foil over the first few steps. I have a big piece of cardboard blocking the stair entry. Somehow he gets on them anyway and I will notice a new pull. I am beside myself!

  • Owner, pitbull helped each other heal before saying goodbye

    It's not often that I get to experience a story from its beginning to its end. The exception is the rags-to-riches tale of a pit bull named Sweetie Grace.

  • 10 next-gen tech tools for dogs

    We all know the stereotype of the obsessive pet owner. It used to be the person who calls home 14 times a day to check on Fluffy, who buys ridiculous outfits and coordinating collar and leashes for every day of the week, takes the dog to doggy day spas, and who leaves pets a fortune in their wills. That's still over-the-top, but by today's standards it's also completely old-school. There's a new way to be obsessive, and it even has a cool factor attached to it (depending on who you ask, anyway). With our ultra-connected, high-tech culture, there's a niche in the pet industry that is growing at an impressive rate: technology for dogs.

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category