Friday, November 15, 2013

My Dog Has a Lick Granuloma - Can Dogs Have OCD?

Shiner is a licker. Yes, she loves to give kisses but that's not exactly what I mean. Shiner licks her paws a lot. Well, she used to anyways. She sometimes would lick her feet so often that she would give herself lesions. She also will chew the pads on the bottoms of her paws. Oh, and she likes to bite her nails. Does anyone else's dog do this? She's the only dog I've ever met that bites her nails.

There are many different reasons why a dog would want to lick their paws. Allergies, injury, arthritis, etc. After trying to deal with my own dog's obsessive licking habits, I began to wonder if she could have OCD. OCD is short for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and is generally a condition that is attributed to humans.

Photo via Sarah J. 

Can Dogs Have OCD?

During my vet tech days, I learned that it may be possible for dogs to have OCD. Although in dogs, it is called "Compulsive Disorders". According to PetMD, Dog Compulsive Disorders are behaviors of a dog that are exaggerations of normal dog behaviors. Dogs exhibit these behaviors for longer amounts of time and the behaviors are repeated out of context for a situation.

So, yes - this sort of thing really does exist and it's usually behavior related. Perhaps caused by anxiety, stress, boredom or maybe even frustration. One of the most common things a dog with a Compulsive Disorder will do is lick themselves. And in many cases, this excessive licking can cause self-trauma. I've seen many dogs give themselves a "Lick Granuloma" this way.

What I Know About Lick Granulomas on Dogs

Lick Granulomas are hard to "cure". In fact, the article about Lick Granulomas on PetMD is titled "Acral Lick Granuloma: A Dermatology Nightmare". There are so many different treatment methods and options, but it usually takes more than one try to fix the problem from my experience. And sometimes it can take several weeks or months. 

A Lick Granuloma on a dog's paw.
via source

Every dog is different, so I think this may be why lick granulomas are such a hard ailment to fix. And not every dog will be licking obsessively due to a Compulsive Disorder. The cause of these lick granulomas could be caused by any number of things. Here's a list: 

  • Allergies. Some dogs are allergic to grass and/or pollen which causes itchy skin. 
  • Separation Anxiety. A lot of dogs experience separation anxiety when their owners are away. Some find it comforting to lick themselves excessively.
  • Boredom. A dog can easily get bored home alone for extended periods of time. It's best to avoid this situation, but if not possible you can offer your dog something to do while you aren't at home. 
  • Foreign Body. A tiny splinter or thorn could have gotten stuck in your dog's paw, causing them discomfort and leaving them wanting to constantly lick that area. 
  • Arthritis. Senior dogs can get arthritis which causes discomfort, commonly in the feet and legs. 

Things You Can Try at Home for Lick Granulomas 

First of all, you should take your dog to the vet and get them checked out first. The tips I'm going to share here are just simple things you can try at at home for lick granulomas once you've completely gotten tired of listening to your dog's slurping noises. It's not fun, but you do really start to feel bad for them and want to help. 

  • Wipe your dog's paws down with a damp cloth after going outside. This might help remove some of the allergens they've picked up outside. 
  • Feed your dog good food that they aren't allergic to. Dogs can be allergic to ingredients like chicken or grains in their food which can cause itchy skin. 
  • Don't leave your dog home alone for extended periods of time. If you can help it. And if you have to... 
  • Give your dog something to do while they are alone. Give your dog a toy or stuff and freeze a KONG. Feed them out of a puzzle feeder. Hide treats around the house. Leave a radio or TV on for them to watch and listen to.  
  • Be active with your dog. Your dog can get bored while you're at home too. Make sure you play with your dog and are active with them. 
  • If all else fails, you can try to physically restrict their licking. Some people might need to resort to some sort of E-Collar (Elizabethean collar or cone) or dog booties so that a dog just isn't able to lick themselves. 

Thankfully, my dog's Lick Granulomas finally went away and she doesn't have them anymore. This was several years ago, by the way. She still likes to chew and bite her nails every now and then, but this behavior has dramatically decreased. 

I just wanted to share a little about this topic because I don't think many people know what they are in for when they first notice the problem. It's easy to become frustrated with your vet with this kind of diagnosis, but just know that it's almost never easy. Hopefully, these tips can help someone. I'd love to know your own experiences with dog lick granulomas as well - feel free to share in the comments!

34 comments:

  1. Great tips there Ann, Mollie gets a bit OTT with her paws, I am going to wipe them when we have been out. :) Hope Mom is doing well xxoxxx

    Mollie and Alfie

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    1. Maybe it will help, who knows! Hopefully though. I caught Shiner biting her nails again when I took her chew antler away from her.

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  2. I've never heard about this so thanks for sharing. That little paw looks really sore, poor thing :(

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    1. Glad you learned something Rachael. That photo is one that's pretty irritated... freshly licked I'd say.

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  3. We too have never heard of that before and luckily no lickers over here.
    Have a fabulous Friday.

    Best wishes Molly

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  4. My BooBear has OCD, almost like a person. For him it seems to be worse at certain times a year, and a couple of times the vet has given him pills to snap out of it. It just took a couple of days and he looked up like, "What am I doing? Why am I doing this?" They're so much alike us in so many ways.

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    1. Was he licking too? They can do other things besides lick. You are right though, they are so much like us.

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  5. Carmine has a mild form of OCD. The biggest trigger for him is stress, so I've learned how to keep him and his environment as stress-free as possible. His OCD behaviors rarely come up anymore these days thanks to the stress management :)

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    1. I believe this sort of stuff does affect cats too, but maybe not quite as often as it does dogs. I don't think I've ever seen a cat with a lick granuloma anyways. Glad Carmine is doing well these days!

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  6. It is so sad that dogs get OCD too. Living with a dog with general anxiety, I know how hard this can be.

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    1. You are right. Hailey is lucky to have a lady like you!

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  7. Great post, Ann. We've seen dogs and cats with forms of compulsive disorders. Moosey is sort of an anxious cat, so we try to keep things as "regular" as possible. He also wears a calming collar, which seems to help. :)

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    1. That's good. Anxiety is definitely a factor with this sort of thing. Hope your plan for him works out well!

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  8. Thankfully we have never had the problem. Roxy will sometimes lick her paws, but not enough to cause a lesion.

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    1. That's good. It sure can be frustrating!

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  9. We all probably have something we do too much of MOL!

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    1. You are definitely right about that Brian!

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  10. We have never had this problem but found your post very interesting! I guess I'm lucky that I haven't had to deal with this with my doggies!

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    1. Thank you! Glad you've never had to deal with something like this before.

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  11. That Lick Granuloma looks very painful. Poor doggy. :(

    Thanks for sharing this information!

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  12. Good to know that there are some things about dogs that we might never understand. Dannyboy used to do both of those things. The licking quit after we got him on grain-free food, and his allergies had time to clear. But the nail biting still occurred some just like Shiner. When I'd hear him starting, I'd run get the clippers and trim them down again as short as I could get them. For some reason, it seemed that trimming every 2 weeks might not be enough for him. He'd still try to continue for a couple of minutes, but then he'd quit once he found out it was going to hurt.

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    1. Interesting to hear another person has experienced the nail biting. Honestly, I've never needed to trim Shiner's nails because they are always too short to trim! I don't think I've trimmed her nails in years... there's just not anything to cut. I am also a nail biter, sometimes I wonder if she gets it from me lol.

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  13. This is great advice! Taylor tends to bite her nails just before she sleeps...I attribute it to her nails being a bit longer than they should be. Jeremy and I only use a dremel and have been filing Taylor's nails once a week, but it doesn't seem to be enough to tone down the nail growing! So, this week, we will be starting a twice-a-week routine.

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    1. Interesting to find another nail biting dog! Dremels are a good tool to help make nails not so sharp and pointy. Getting the length off can be a bit tricky though. At the vet clinic, we used to trim first and then use a dremel to smooth out the nails. But, since you're doing it so often I don't think that's necessary like you mention.

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  14. I have often said that our younger beagle has OCD. She gets very fixated on things like a ball. Our golden retriever licks her paws often, and chews on her dewclaw (which I keep trimmed). She has licked some spots bald on herself....but when is it considered a granuloma requiring vet care? In her case, we have always just kept the area clean and eventually she stops and it heals up. BTW, that one spot was on her front leg, and she has since been diagnosed with arthritis....I wonder if it was related? She's on supplements for that now and I don't think she's licking her paws nearly as much.

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    1. A granuloma sort of looks like a lump or growth sometimes. It doesn't always look red and "open" like the one pictured above. It can be more "dry" looking too. But they can take a while to fully heal up and completely go away. I think keeping it clean is important because bacteria can play a role in making them worse. Could have been arthritis related. Animals tell us things that are bothering them in all kinds of ways :)

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  15. I absolutely believe dogs can have OCD!

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  16. I remember watching an episode with Cesar Milan and a couple asked him about their Doberman who had a compulsive disorder where he licked the fence. Cesar did not answer their question, probably because it wasn't a matter of training, it was a mental disorder.

    Maya had the lick granuloma on her paw for a while, but it only happens in spring and summer when chiggers are prevalent. With a little treatment and PAWS booties, and with the chiggers dying off in cooler weather, Maya's paw is much better.

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    1. I was thinking of Maya when I was writing this too! Bug bites could certainly be a cause for them. Especially if the dog were allergic.

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  17. Canine Compulsive Disorder is a real problem that affects lots of dogs, but did you and your readers know that dogs affected, show similar brain disorders to people that have OCD?

    It would seem that we have a lot more in common with our canine friends than we might otherwise have thought. The full article makes for interesting reading, you can read it here: http://news.nationalgeographic.co.uk/news/2013/06/130610-ocd-dogs-health-animals-science-brains/

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    1. I didn't know that but think it's not too surprising! Thank you for sharing Adrian!

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  18. Very interesting. We don't have a licking problem, but all of our Chessies will bite their nails if they get too long...lol.

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    1. Hmm I guess it does make sense for them to bite at their nails if they feel too long for them. I wonder how Shiner would be with a dremel... hers are too short to trim always.

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