Acral Lick Dermatitis (ALD) – Treatment of Lick Granulomas in Dogs

What Is Canine Acral Lick Dermatitis?

Lick granulomas, also known as acral lick dermatitis, is one of the most frustrating conditions in dogs that pet owners have to deal with. Despite almost 10 years of scientific publication detailing the logical treatment of canine acral lick dermatitis (ALD), many veterinarians are still frustrated when it comes to dealing with this sometimes-refractory condition. Now, as in the past, many vets treat ALD as a local problem, attempting to use various salves and potions to reduce inflammation, control infection, and numb pain. While these treatments may offer some symptomatic relief, they are not therapeutic. The true motivation for true ALD in dogs is psychological, not physical.

Some conditions may masquerade as ALD. Apparent ALD lesions may result from trauma, local infection, tumors, allergy, or degenerative disease. To rule out physical disease-related ALD-like conditions, a number of tests may have to be run, including biopsy, deep culture, and X-ray. Once the diagnosis of true (psychological) ALD is confirmed, proper treatment can begin.

Physical Measures to Stop Dogs Licking

While specific treatment measures take effect, it may be necessary to temporarily prevent the dog from inflicting further damage. Elizabethan collars or bandages designed to prevent the dog from licking or chewing her limb may be necessary for a while, particularly when the dog cannot be adequately supervised.

Definitive Measures to Stop Dog ALD

All serotonin uptake inhibiting anti-obsessional drugs take a while to work. Owners should not even look for improvement for at least 3 weeks. A noticeable effect may become apparent after about 1 month. Further gains may be made by the end of the second month of treatment, with perhaps 85 percent improvement after 3 months of treatment and 95 percent improvement after 4 months.

Conclusion on Lick Granulomas

When ALD is regarded as a central (brain/mind) problem, which it is, therapy becomes rational. Anxiety must be reduced in the dog’s life by means of environmental and pharmacological strategies. Once the compulsion is under control, medication may sometimes be withdrawn without relapse. However, since ALD is genetically based, and feeds off an anxious and high-strung personality, successful treatment may only last until the next stressful event.