Kahler: Dog is in a vicious cycle with licking

Callie has developed an annoying habit -- at least it's annoying to Sandra and John.

Apparently, the 6-year-old border collie has grown quite fond of licking a particular spot on her left front leg near her carpus (wrist.)

Callie will lie on her bed and lick until she is distracted by John or Sandra. The area on her leg is swollen and reddish and appears to have some scabbing.

I suspect Callie is dealing with lick granuloma.

As Sandra and John know firsthand, these cases can be quite frustrating. The key to successful treatment of this lesion lies in discovering the underlying reason the dog is licking in the first place. The challenge, however, is that there is no one reason.

Treatment, in Callie's case, is necessary now to deal with damaged skin and a possible infection. This secondary infection becomes an irritant and perpetuates the licking, which then causes more damage and more irritation and more licking.

In exploring primary causes for excessive licking, we commonly consider an underlying injury as a starting point. There can be arthritis in the area, especially if the licking is in the area of a joint, as is the case with Callie.

A radiograph of Callie's carpus would help determine if there might be a joint problem or other type of bony lesion causing discomfort. There are also cases of lick granulomas that are theorized to be obsessive compulsive in nature. These cases can sometimes respond to therapies that include behavioral modification or drug therapy or a combination of both.

I have dealt with many lick granuloma cases and tried many remedies with varying success. There is no one treatment that works, and sometimes, nothing really works.

I have had success with an injectable cocktail of medications given directly under the lesion. This combination of medications can sometimes take away the impetus to lick, allowing the area to heal.

Callie needs to be evaluated for an infection in the affected area and treated with appropriate antibiotics.

If there is a lot of damage, there will be scarring. But if the licking is stopped, scarring is a small price to pay.

Jeff Kahler is a veterinarian in Modesto. Questions can be submitted to Your Pet in care of LifeStyles, The Modesto Bee, P.O. Box 5256, Modesto 95352.