Acral lick dermatitis

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Acral limb dermatitis in a dog[1]

Acral lick dermatitis is an obsessive-compulsive skin disease of dogs.

This condition is normally seen on the distal dorsal extremities as firm, proliferative raised plaques or granulomas that are intensely pruritic, known as acral lick granuloma.

There is no sensory neuropathy associated with this as is seen with acral mutilation syndrome.

Although boredom, separation anxiety and stress are often considered predominant causes, other factors may be involved such as:

- Sarcoptes scabiei
- Demodex canis
  • Learned behavior

Lesions associated with acral lick dermatitis usually yield positive growth of bacteria differing from superficial culture and are often resistant to empirical drugs. Species commonly observed include Staphylococcus intermedius[2], often resistant to amoxycillin/clavulanate and cephalosporins.

Diagnosis is based on presenting clinical signs and tissue biopsy confirming acanthosis, folliculitis, furunculosis, perihidradenitis, hidradenitis and vertical streaking fibrosis.

Differential diagnosis would include Leishmania spp, Epitheliotropic T-cell lymphoma and squamous cell carcinoma[3].

Treatment requires broad-spectrum antimicrobials based on culture and sensitivity of primary bacterial agents, and use of anxiolytic drugs such as fluoxetine[4], clomipramine[5], buspirone or diazepam.


  1. Pet Dig
  2. Shumaker AK et al (2008) Microbiological and histopathological features of canine acral lick dermatitis. Vet Dermatol 19(5):288-298
  3. Denerolle P et al (2007) Organic diseases mimicking acral lick dermatitis in six dogs. J Am Anim Hosp Assoc 43(4):215-220
  4. Wynchank D & Berk M (1998) Fluoxetine treatment of acral lick dermatitis in dogs: a placebo-controlled randomized double blind trial. Depress Anxiety 8(1):21-23
  5. Hewson CJ et al (1998) Efficacy of clomipramine in the treatment of canine compulsive disorder. J Am Vet Med Assoc 213(12):1760-1766