What to Do If Your Dog Won’t Stop Licking His Paws

What to Do If Your Dog Won't Stop Licking His Paws

Acral lick dermatitis also known as “lick granuloma”, is a condition of the skin occasionally seen in pets. The name of this condition originates from its location (acral- meaning on the extremities) & from the cause (licking). Dogs that are affected often lick at a particular “chosen” spot on one of the legs. A dog may spend several hours engaged in this activity throughout the whole day and on a daily basis. The continuous licking eventually results to an infected and non-healing wound.

Causes Of Lick Granulomas

There are several factors that lead to development of ALD. In many cases, this condition is self-perpetuating. As soon as your pet creates the wound, it becomes a continuous source of irritation hence stimulating un-ending licking. The licking may become enough of a habit that he keeps going on even when you resolve the “underlying” cause. Some of the leading causes of

ALD are: Pain, Wound, Allergy, Skin tumor, Parasites, Infection, Ringworm, Boredom, Stress, Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

How Is Acral Lick Dermatitis Diagnosed?

In case you notice that your dog is fond of licking his legs or feet, take a closer look and try to identify a spot where the fur has been removed & the skin is beginning to appear red, thickened and irritated. If you identify a spot like the one described above, it is advisable that you take your dog to be examined by a vet.

Your vet might want to know:

  • When you first noticed the lick
  • If your pet licks all the time
  • Only when the dog is alone or if the dog licks during a given season

The answers you give to these questions will help your vet figure out an underlying cause. Your veterinary can also recommend some tests like a fungal culture skin scraping or skin biopsy. You will find more information when you visit Orlando pet groomer.


Treating the primary source of acral lick dermatitis is essential. However, it may be challenging because your veterinary doctor must first figure out the underlying triggers.

In psychogenic cases, it is important to first deal with psychological factors. The factors such as the changes in household, being confined and also being left alone should be identified. Correction of these triggers may include avoiding confinement, increasing walks as well as more interactions at home. Some vets have always argued that the dog’s diet could affect compulsive behaviors in pet dogs.

You can use drugs until the behavior modification has time to take effect. The most commonly used antidepressants include amitriptyline, clomipramine, fluoxetine and doxepin. If you do not correct psychological triggers, your dog is likely to relapse as soon as you discontinue the use of drugs. Endorphin blockers like naltrexone may be used to discourage addiction to licking. Substitutes of endorphin like hydrocodone can also lower the urge to lick.

You should have your dog tested for allergies and treated properly if positive (antihistamines, hypoallergic diet, fatty acids etc). It might be necessary to check levels of thyroid, since hypothyroidism appears to play a significant role in some cases, especially in black Labrador retrievers; in most case, thyroid medication will resolve the problem if it is due to hypothyroidism.

As was mentioned earlier ALD is difficult to treat. However, it is manageable. Majority of patients are always given a guarded prognosis of lesion resolution. Continued self-mutilation (chewing and licking) may prevent the wound from healing. In some cases, the self- mutilation is so severe that it can lead to discomfort as well as compromise your dog’s quality of life. Whilst ALD is rarely a life-threatening disease, it’s irritating not only for the dog but also the dog owner. A dog that receives an early as well as appropriate treatment will have a better chance of recovering than a dog with severe or chronic advanced condition.