What Are Lick Granulomas in Dogs?

Many different psychological factors can trigger lick granulomas in dogs. They can develop from a dog licking themselves to alleviate separation anxiety from their owner. Granulomas may also crop up as a result of allergies or hypothyroidism. Many pet parents have never even heard of lick granulomas.

Lick granulomas result from a dog licking a particular area on their body until it is raw and reddened. The dog may be licking so often and so hard that it removes hair.

lick granuloma in dogs

If your pup has any psychological stress, they may handle it by persistently licking or chewing on themselves. Fortunately, there are potential treatments that can help your dog. Read this article to find out more about lick granulomas.

What is a Lick Granuloma?

A lick granuloma (see video) occurs when a dog constantly licks at an area on the lower limb. They are most likely to lick the wrist or carpal joint of the front limb. The problem is often linked with solid psychological cues, such as:

  • Fear
  • Trauma
  • Separation Anxiety
  • General Anxiety
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Frustration
  • Boredom

The dog will find a spot to lick, and they will lick until it is raw. It becomes an irritated patch of skin, and the dog can even remove hair and affect each layer of skin. It can be accompanied by bacterial and yeast infections.

Some pet parents mistake the lick granulomas for hot spots. However, they are different from hot spots. Lick granulomas can persist regardless of treatment. It becomes a vicious cycle that causes an angry, red, and irritated sore.

What Dog Breeds Are Susceptible to Lick Granulomas?

Any dog can suffer from a lick granuloma, but certain breeds are susceptible. These breeds include:

  • Doberman Pinschers
  • German Shepherds
  • Golden Retrievers
  • Labrador Retrievers
  • Irish Setters
  • Weimaraner’s
  • Great Danes

The above dogs are more prone to lick granulomas. However, no dog is immune from developing lick granulomas. It all depends on how your dog copes with stress or other psychological factors.

What Causes Lick Granulomas?

As mentioned at the opening of the article, lick granulomas can be triggered by psychological cues. In this portion, you will understand more about this, as well as other causes:


Dogs left alone for extended periods will sometimes resort to licking themselves constantly to relieve their boredom. If they are not occupied, they may do this. Some experts think this “boredom” is part of a more significant problem, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is characterized by repeating a specific pattern constantly, and it interferes with normal functioning. Others believe that the licking releases endorphins, which causes your pup to get addicted to the behavior of licking.

Please note that a lack of exercise often causes boredom in dogs. Make sure your dog is getting enough playtime, or take them for plenty of walks outside.


Some researchers think that the lick granulomas result from your dog inhaling allergens that cause dermatitis or skin irritation. Your pup will start to lick themselves to relieve the irritation, which becomes a habit or a pattern.

Food allergies can also trigger inflammation. Seek advice from your vet if your pup needs a change in their diet to prevent this.

Joint Pain

Another idea is that dogs will lick when they are experiencing joint pain in a sore area. Psychologically, the licking heals the pain. It is something they do to attempt to make themselves comfortable.

The excessive licking will lead to an infected area, and it causes a lick granuloma. It is especially difficult for your pup if they have arthritis in their lower leg.

Psychological Stimuli

Various psychological issues can cause your dog to lick incessantly in a specific area. If a pup is experiencing separation anxiety, they may feel stressed out when separated from their pet parents for an extended period of time.

Dogs may also be stressed out if they are afraid. For example, they may be scared of loud noises are outside, such as fireworks or thunder and lightning. This disturbance can prompt the licking out of nervousness.


Clinical research has shown that a slow thyroid is linked to the growth of a licked granuloma in some dogs. It has been hypothesized that the imbalance of hormones due to this illness results in skin scaling and itchiness.

Your pup may try to relieve their itchiness by constantly licking that spot until it is raw. They may chew on the itchy patches of skin.

Some of the signs of hypothyroidism in dogs include:

  • Loss of fur
  • Weight Gain
  • Loss of muscle mass
  • Lack of energy
  • Reduced heart rate
  • Recurring ear infections

Low thyroid hormones can affect dogs in many ways. The development of a lick granuloma is one of them.

How Do You Treat a Lick Granuloma?

Most dogs necessitate treatment focused on:

  • Inflammation
  • Infection
  • Psychological components

If you notice that your canine is repeatedly licking themselves, you should have your veterinarian test your pup. This testing includes allergy testing and thyroid testing.

If your dog is hypothyroid, your vet can prescribe the appropriate medication for the condition. If your pup has allergies, you can try a gentle, hypoallergenic shampoo or talk to your vet about an antihistamine for your dog.

Topical and oral anti-inflammatory medications, such as corticoids, can help to decrease inflammation. Certain anti-depressants can help with the compulsion to lick. However, it would be safest if you discussed that option thoroughly with your veterinarian.

Antibiotics are often used to treat secondary infections from the lick granuloma. The leading cause of lick granulomas tends to be anxiety or boredom, and you should make it a point to devote time with your pup.

Quality time with your pup that will help to relieve the symptoms includes exercise and stimulation. Your dog needs to be occupied both physically and mentally.

What to Do About Lick Granulomas in Dogs

Lick granulomas are often challenging to treat. They can leave a raw and irritated sore on their lower limb. Certain breeds of canines are more likely to be affected. If you see your canine companion is licking compulsively, take them to the vet for help and treatment.

At VMC of St. Lucie County, we’re committed to helping pets feel happy and healthy. If you have any concerns regarding your pet’s health and overall well-being, give us a call!