As I learned from treating a recurring wound in the paw of my six year old Shetland Sheep Dog, Tigger, Acral Lick Granuloma is a difficult to treat medical condition involving both a physical and psychological aspect. Though beginning with a skin lesion, most commonly on the lower part of the dog’s paw, Acral Lick Granuloma turns into a persistent wound when the dog becomes obsessed with the need to lick the injury.
According to Veterinarian Anne Gavin at the Carroboro Plaza Veterinary Clinic, when a dog licks his wound the damaged cells naturally release pain alleviating endorphins into his blood stream. It is this soothing sensation that some dogs become addicted to, resulting in obsessive paw licking.
The symptoms of Acral Lick Granuloma are well-known to dog owners fighting to heal a persistent wound on their dog’s paw. Most frequent in dogs five or older, the illness is common in Doberman Pinschers, Great Danes, Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds and Irish Setters, though, as in the case of my Shetland Sheep Dog, other breeds may be affected as well.
To treat Acral Lick Granuloma, Veterinarians begin by addressing the physical side of the ailment in an effort to alleviate discomfort and diminish the physical need for licking. For bacterial infections a course of antibiotics is prescribed; for arthritis oral pain management and joint therapy are recommended. In extreme cases, as with my Shetland Sheep Dog, surgery may be required to drain the wound and suture it closed.
The secondary, and more challenging aspect of treating Acral Lick Granuloma revolves around the psychological dependency of the dog. With longstanding injuries, this problem becomes even harder to overcome, though several methods have proven successful,
Exercise is especially efficacious in distracting and tiring the dog to the point where his paw injury ceases to concern him. The more the dog uses his paw in normal conditions, the more he is likely to accept that his paw has healed. Furthermore, during exercise the body produces natural endorphins which provide the dog with the soothing sensation he craves.
For especially difficult cases, blocking devices that prevent access to the wound, such as special collars or tightly wound bandages, have been proven efficacious especially in the early stages of healing.
As I discovered with my Shetland Sheep Dog, a combination of both treatment methods yielded the best results. Carful bandaging in the first week directly after surgery prevented Tigger from obsessively licking the wound and re-infecting the area. Once pain had subsided, removal of the bandage followed by walks and runs in the park, not only tired Tigger but convinced him that his paw was well again. Though Acral Lick Granuloma left its telltale discoloration of the skin and fur behind, Tigger returned to being a healthy dog who uses his tongue for licking his snacks, not his paw.
Carroboro Plaza Veterinary Clinic: Arcal Lick Granuloma, Canine