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This information is provided by Provet for educational purposes only.

You should seek the advice of your veterinarian if your pet is ill as only he or she can correctly advise on the diagnosis and recommend the treatment that is most appropriate for your pet.

Lick granulomas are unsightly, red raw areas of skin caused by self-trauma - usually licking, but also biting

A natural response to an itch is to rub, scratch or bite at the affected area of skin. But sometimes this behaviour can get out of hand and lead to hair loss and actual damage to the skin. This is what happens when a lick granuloma forms. 

The cause of lick granulomas is unknown, but the following may be involved :

  • Any cause of skin irritation or itchiness (also called pruritus)- eg allergy, parasites.
  • The nerves in the skin or underlying tissues may be diseased
  • Continuous licking at the same site may be part of an obsessive- compulsive behavioural disorder
  • It may be part of a self-mutilation behavioural disorder 
  • It may be a manifestation of boredom and lack of stimulation
  • It may form part of a separation anxiety or other stress-related behavioural pattern

Lick granulomas are most often seen in dogs, and some breeds are more susceptible than others , including :   Doberman Pinschers, German Shepherd Dogs, Golden Retrievers. Great Danes, Irish Setters, Labrador Retrievers and St Bernards. Lick granulomas can occur anywhere that is accessible to the dog , but they most often occur on the front or outside of  the front leg over the carpus joint or foot . Some authors now include "flank sucking" and tail biting as part of the same syndrome.

If the self-trauma goes on too long before it is treated the skin will thicken and become darkly pigmented.

Treatments that have been tried include  :

  • Treat any underlying cause that is producing an itch - flea allergy
  • Correct any primary behavioural problem.
  • Treat with anti-anxiety drugs
  • Treat with anti-inflammatory drugs - given by mouth or applied directly to the raw area of skin
  • Protect the sore from further damage by using an Elizabethan collar on the animal
  • Surgically remove the affected area of skin, then use plastic surgery techniques to cover over the deficit in the skin. After surgery the wound may need to be protected with a bandage.

Unfortunately many cases recur at the same site, or at another site and unless an underlying cause can be identified and treated.


Updated October 2013