Acral lick dermatitis (lick granuloma)

What is ... ?: 

This is a complex disorder in which dogs lick continuously at an area on their leg , which becomes raw, weeping, and ulcerated. The cause is unknown but inheritance may play a role, since certain breeds are affected more commonly. Boredom or frustration are considered contributing factors. Other possibilities include a disorder of the sensory nerves, or an obsessive-compulsive disorder.

How is ... inherited?: 

No mode of inheritance has been established.

What does ... mean to your dog & you?: 

Owners are generally amazed by the amount of damage a dog can do to his/her limb simply by continuous licking. Frequently the affected area becomes secondarily infected (pyoderma).
Boredom and frustration are thought to play a role in this condition, which is often seen in highly intelligent dogs who spend much of their day alone.

How is ... diagnosed?: 

It is important to rule out any underlying cause of the condition. Your veterinarian will likely do a skin biopsy for this purpose. This is a simple procedure, done with local anesthetic, in which your veterinarian removes a small sample of your dog's skin for examination by a veterinary pathologist.

How is ... treated?: 

Lick granulomas can be difficult for veterinarians to treat, and frustrating for the owner. Because boredom and frustration are thought to play a role in this condition, your veterinarian will likely discuss with you environmental enrichment and behaviour modification for your dog. S/he may prescribe certain drugs with anti-depressant or anti-anxiety properties for short periods, relying on your help in assessing the effects. Topical corticosteroids may help as well.
As the area is frequently secondarily affected, anti-bacterial therapy may be necessary.

For the veterinarian: 

Rule-outs include neoplasia, pressure point granulomas,various infectious agents, underlying sensitivities, allergies, histiocytomas, mastocytomas.

Breeding advice: 

Because inheritance appears to play a role in this complex condition, it is preferable not to breed dogs in whom acral lick dermatitis is a problem.

What breeds are affected by ... ?