Q: My dog's constant licking is making sore spots - help!

Mary T.

Why won’t my dog stop licking his legs and making sore spots?

Chosen Answer

Lick granulomas (also called acral lick dermatitis) are the inflamed, red spots from constant licking. All the hair is gone from the spots, nerve ending may be exposed and it must be hurting the dog — but he still can’t stop licking. Underlying medical or psychological causes must be found to stop this self-destructive behavior.

Dogs lick themselves for at least two reasons: It feels good (in brain chemistry), or it feels bad (arthritis pain, infections, foreign objects under the skin) so they lick, lick, lick and make things worse. The brain chemistry angle says that licking is pleasurable because it releases endorphins at a time when the dog is bored or stressed. A veterinary examination can sometimes pinpoint a medical cause for this compulsive licking and suggest a treatment. If the dog started licking an area of arthritis-related pain, for example, pain relief might break the cycle. If there is an area of deep infection — from ringworm perhaps— the infection can be cleared up.

You hope the dog will forget why he was licking and, even better, stop altogether. As a temporary measure, the dog might have to wear an Elizabethan collar so he can’t reach the usual lick spots, or special bandaging that tastes bad and allows the wounds to heal. Medication can also address the stress, anxiety, boredom, or whatever is troubling the dog’s mind.

Spots of acral lick dermatitis are too easy for the dog to lick and tough for humans to handle.

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Readers' Answers (1)
Stephanie  C.

Jul 11, 2010

Try to find what triggers the licking. Do his feet hurt or itch? One of my mom's dogs is allergic to dew. She has to potty on the concrete patio or she will lick all the hair off her feet. Or, you may have a plant or type of grass in your yard that triggers it. Do seeds get caught between his toes?

Did you have your yard sprayed or treated recently? Herbicides and pesticides can have terrible affects on your dog's feet.

Have you changed any detergents lately? Laundry or dish detergents can cause reactions, as well as pet shampoo. He may be having a reaction to something that is manifesting in his feet.

Don't overlook your carpets. Have you had them cleaned lately, or is it new? My dogs broke out in hives from visiting my in-laws after they had their carpets cleaned.

This can be quite an investigation to find the trigger. Think about everthing that his feet touch, and what has changed since the foot licking began. Consult your vet and ask him about Benadryl. If his foot licking decreases, then this points to an allergy.

Good luck!

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