Skin Disease Caused by Licking in Dogs

PetMD Editorial
Jul 02, 2008
2 min read
Image: Photo Grapher / via Image Bank

Acral Lick Dermatitis in Dogs

Acral lick dermatitis is a firm, raised, ulcerative, or thickened plaque usually located on the back side of the wrist, on the ankle, or between the toes. This disease primarily affects dogs, and most commonly large breeds, especially Doberman Pinschers, Labrador Retrievers, Great Danes, Irish and English Setters, Golden Retrievers, Akitas, Dalmatians, Shar-peis, and Weimaraners. The age at which it occurs in animals varies with the cause. Some experts suggest that it is more common in males; others indicate there is no preference.

Symptoms and Types

The following are some symptoms that may be observed if your dog is suffering from acral lick dermatitis:

  • Excessive licking and chewing of the affected area
  • Occasionally, a history of trauma to the affected are
  • Bald, ulcerative, thickened, and raised firm bumps (usually located on the back of the ankle, heel, or between the toes)
  • Lesions often occur singly, although they may occur in more than one location


  • Skin diseases, such as staph infections
  • Allergies
  • Hormone problems, such as hyperthyroidism
  • Mites
  • Fungal infection
  • Reaction to a foreign body
  • Cancer
  • Arthritis
  • Trauma
  • Nerve dysfunction


A veterinarian will first need to do a behavioral history on your dog. The following are a list of other possible examinations generally used to diagnose acral lick dermatitis:

  • Skin scrapings, fungal and bacterial cultures, biopsies and Tzanck preparations (for herpes infection)
  • Skin allergy testing – allergic animals often have multiple-lick inflammation and other areas of itching compatible with the specific allergy
  • Laboratory tests to rule out endocrine diseases (such as hyperthyroidism), bacterial infections, cancer, fungus infections, and parasites
  • Food-elimination diet

It is important that the veterinarian rule out any underlying diseases prior to diagnosing neurologically caused (psychogenic) skin disorders.

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