Storm is a 5 year-old Labrador retriever who has a bad habit: he likes to lick and chew at his legs. Storm’s habit is so extreme that he has licked all the fur off his favourite lick spots, and the skin at these locations is often open and moist. The flesh underneath is thickened and scarred, so that a stranger might look at him and think he has several unusual looking tumours on his legs.
This medical condition is affectionately known as a “lick granuloma”, and it is extremely difficult – almost impossible – to cure. Sometimes the dog will develop the licking habit because they had some itchy spots. Other dogs will lick because they have allergies, or they are anxious or stressed, or because their joints are arthritic and sore. Whatever the original trigger, it is often long gone by the time the lick granuloma is seen by their veterinarian. It seems that for many dogs, the habit of licking becomes so ingrained it is not unlike an addiction, making it an enormous challenge to get them to stop licking so the tissues can try to heal.
Storm’s lick granulomas have been an ongoing issue for almost one year, but he seemed worse than ever as this past summer was starting. His lick spots were swollen and infected and oozing, and no doubt both itchy and painful for Storm to live with.
Storm was placed on a course of antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medications, but his owner consented to trying something new this time – a series of treatments with a therapy laser. Storm came in to the clinic eight times over a three week period to have his lick granulomas treated with this laser. The therapy laser feels like warmth, to Storm, but for his tissues it promotes rapid healing, reduced pain and itch and inflammation, and stimulates acupuncture points as well as helping aid in infection control. By the end of the three weeks, the lick granulomas were looking remarkably better – the surface was drying up and closing in, not swollen or irritated, and there was new fur growth in regions that have been bald since the problem started.
Although we still have not reached a complete cure for Storm, we are now closer to a cure than ever and are hopeful we can at least keep him happy and comfortable in the years to come.