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Acral Lick Dermatitis in Labradors

Ever heard of Acral Lick Dermatitis (ALD)? Also known as lick granuloma, this is common in large breed dogs including Labradors. It is a disease that results from self-mutilation caused by stereotypic behaviors or repetitive movements in dogs. These behaviors appear with no apparent purpose. The stereotypic behavior in ALD includes self-licking, chewing and scratching of a certain area in the limbs. This repetitive movement leads to hair loss and lesions. The self-licking behavior prevents the lesions on the surface from healing. These lesions and plaques cause discomfort and pain in large breed dogs, or worse, it may cripple the dog. This disease may occur at any age depending on the cause. Some experts indicate that it is more prevalent in males whereas others suggest that it fairly occurs on both male and female dogs.

Causes of Acral Lick Dermatitis in Labradors

Although ALD is common in large breeds, it may also affect small dogs. In large breeds, the Labrador Retriever is one of those with high predisposition to ALD compared to other breeds. This behavioral disorder is rooted from many contributing factors. It is agreed that the self-licking and scratching behavior in Labradors is a way of releasing tension when dogs are bored or isolated from others. Other factors that may lead to these repetitive behaviors are when Labradors are restrained in a place for a long period of time or are punished physically by their owners. In addition, the self-licking behavior may result as a modeling of the owner’s unintentionally nervous behavior towards them. The mere introduction of strangers, whether people or other animals, to the dog may also cause ALD. Other important factors to consider are staph infections, hyperthyroidism, fungal infection, nerve dysfunction, mites or reaction to foreign bodies. It is also important to determine whether the relentless licking of your Labrador rules out other factors which may lead to similar symptoms. To rule out other possible factors, a veterinarian may run some tests on your dog such as bacterial cultures, histological examinations and other necessary lab tests.

Symptoms of Acral Lick Dermatitis in Labradors

The following symptoms could be easily observed in Labradors. Check the list below to see if your dog is having acral lick dermatitis:
• Stereotypic behavior or repetitive movements that cause self-mutilation
• Repetitive behavior such as licking, chewing or scratching of limbs or the affected area
• A traumatic experience involving the affected area
• Thick and firm plaques or bumps located on the ankles, wrists and between the toes
• Surface lesions occurring in scattered areas


Before a diagnosis is made by the vet, a series of tests will initially be administered on your dog. It will include a histological examination of your dog. Other tests will include skin allergy testing because some dogs that have allergies also often suffer from lesions and surface inflammations due to licking of itchy areas of their body. There will also be skin scraping to see if the symptoms are caused by fungal and bacterial infections as well as biopsies to determine herpes infection. There will also be a series of lab tests to see if endocrine diseases such as bacterial and fungal infections or presence of other parasites are also contributing factors to the existing symptoms. Some dog foods may also be eliminated from the diet. These tests should be administered to rule out other underlying factors before making a diagnosis.


It is difficult to treat ALD in Labradors especially when no specific cause can be pointed out. But to counter this, your dog must get enough attention from you as owner and should get plenty of exercise. Your Labrador should not be kept sedentary at home must be provided enough social contact outside your home. It is always advisable to take your dog to early morning walks around the neighborhood. Proper diet should be maintained unless an allergy may come from a specific food which your dog regularly takes. Surgeries are the last of the options to consider for ALD treatment.

Living with Labradors

Knowing the fact that your Labrador is prone to ALD, be sure to give your dog proper treatment and care. Large breeds are susceptible to different kinds of dog diseases and the only way to prevent the acquisition of these diseases is to monitor the activities of your dog. Take your dogs to the park regularly, provide social contact to keep them from isolation, maintain healthy diet, and create a better atmosphere in your homes.

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