Points for Pets: Potential causes and treatments for lick granuloma |

Trivia question: What’s the difference between reindeer and caribou?

Q: I have a Labradoodle with a mass on his leg I thought was either an infection or a tumor. It turns out he has what’s called a lick granuloma. We are treating him for this, but I was wondering if you could give us some information on these things. What causes them? Are they hard to treat?

A: Lick granuloma, also called acral lick dermatitis, is defined as a plaque on the lower anterior portion of a leg produced by continuous licking. The thickened, firm skin is often moist and oozing due to the attention given it by the dog’s tongue. The granulomas can vary in size from as small as a dime to as large as the entire surface area of the distal leg.

Researchers have surmised that the excessive licking may cause the release of endorphins, making the animal feel better and at the same time producing an analgesic effect that decreases the animal’s pain perception, even though that sounds counterproductive.

It is thought that boredom and chronic pain can play a major role in their development, and we tend to see them more in older, large-breed dogs with arthritis.

Some of the former treatments used for this condition were to apply cortisone and cover with a bandage or to inject cortisone around the lesion. These typically didn’t help for very long.

In the past, cobra venom was available for this purpose. Since the venom is a neurotoxin, the hope was that the nerve endings would be destroyed and the lesion would no longer itch. This product is no longer available.

Therapy now involves the use of long-term antibiotics to treat the deep-seated infection that is present in the skin, along with the topical application of a liquid bandage that covers the area.

We are also having success in shrinking down these lesions with the use of a therapeutic laser, which has an anti-inflammatory and analgesic effect.

We always caution clients that this condition is usually never totally cured, but rather is managed in order to keep the lesions as small as possible. Certain breeds are more prone to lick granulomas, such as the Doberman, Great Dane, Labrador and German shepherd.

In a few cases, sedatives or even Elizabethan collars (lampshade collars) may become necessary.

Consult your veterinarian for specifics on how to treat this pesky syndrome.

Q: Our Cocker spaniel has really bad ear issues, and we’ve been fighting this problem for years. We clean them and use medicine, and it helps for a while, but then the odor returns again. They smell bad, and he has a lot of wax and brown-looking dirt in them most of the time. They also get red, and he shakes his head and digs at them. He’s about 5 now, and it seems like he’s had this most of his life. What can we do?

A: It sounds like your dog is suffering from otitis externa (inflammation of the outer ear canal). We often see this in spaniels, Labs and any other “floppy eared” canines, but any dog can have it.

The ears contain glands that naturally produce wax for protection, but when irritated and inflamed, oftentimes by allergies, the wax production increases. The extra debris will trap moisture, causing an ear canal that is not only dark and warm, but also damp. This creates an “incubator effect,” meaning that yeast and bacteria have a perfect environment in which to grow.

This is aided by the fact that a dog’s normal body temperature is 101 degrees. Any time there is a growth of yeast and bacteria, it is accompanied by a strong odor.

Your veterinarian is the best one to determine the underlying cause of your dog’s ear odor, and this may require a swab test, a culture or an exam and cleaning under sedation/anesthesia.

Many dogs and cats have an allergic cause for their ear problems, and this may need to be investigated further. Anti-inflammatory medication may be necessary to help suppress some of the swelling. A very common cause of chronic ear inflammation is food allergy, so check with your veterinarian about a potential dietary change.

Once the problem is diagnosed, your veterinarian can prescribe treatments such as ear cleaning and drying solutions, ointments and even oral medication.

It’s a fact that certain pets with chronic ear problems require routine inspection and treatment on a REGULAR basis to keep things under control.

There are some newer products now that your veterinarian can apply in the ears that last for an entire month, so don’t get discouraged or give up the fight. Keep working on those ears to keep that smell to a minimum. If the cause is discovered to be food allergy, a switch to a hypoallergenic diet can help to solve the problem.

Trivia answer: They are the same animal. In Europe, they are called reindeer. In North America, they are called caribou in the wild and reindeer if they are domesticated.

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