Acral lick dermatitis in cats: cause, symptoms and treatment

Licking acral dermatitis in cats is often caused by the daily boredom of the animal. Let’s see what causes, symptoms and cure.

Licking acral dermatitis in cats more than a physical pathology or provoked by some external agent, it is a disease or disorder that affects the nervous system. This happens because the cat taken by boredom, uses its time licking its body, causing a dermatitis on various areas until it creates a situation of inflammation, localized hair loss or even ulcers.

To prevent this from happening it is good to keep the cat always busy, giving them some games that satisfy it mentally and some of our time to help them keep it physically fit and also stimulate it mentally. Satisfying curiosity and the need for body movement is a continuous need for the cat. Very useful for this purpose are the toys for cats that do not make the animal bored, thus making it enjoy good mental and also physical health.

The cause of licking acral dermatitis in cats

The acral dermatitis from licking in the cat, is a disease that can be defined neurological, as it does not arise from an external or physical problem but purely from the boredom that the animal suffers, thus creating an outlet valve on its body. As we well know, the cat is an active animal and with a hunter’s nature, its curiosity is what keeps it alive and in constant movement.

That is why if it does not feel mentally stimulated it finds vent on its body. The cat licking part of the physique, this releases endorphins in the brain, which are the hormones of happiness. These hormones replace the need to engage in some activity, which is different from licking. Proceeding with licking by the cat, constant and non-stop, causes acral licking dermatitis in the cat on it.

It should be specified that acral licking dermatitis can also be the consequence of other diseases such as: allergies, traumas, neoplasms and fungi or bacterial infections. As well as hormonal problems (such as hypothyroidism in the cat), nervous dysfunction or reaction to a foreign body and finally also insect and mite bites.


As for the symptomatology of acral licking dermatitis in the cat, the first symptom of all is the continuous licking by the animal, the area that is affected by dermatitis, as it causes the feline an immense discomfort and itching. Other symptoms that can be identified, more than anything else as a consequence of this licking are:

  • reddened, moist and irritated ulcers and sores on the skin;
  • localized cat hair loss.

With the passage of time and the worsening of the situation these ulcers can turn into granulomas which come in the form of a rosy and fleshy mass that often causes thickening of the skin.

In the meantime the cat will continue to scratch becoming a habit and each case will continue until irritation increases and sometimes by custom even after the inflammation continues to lick. Generally, licking acral dermatitis occurs on the joints of the carpus or on the lower ends of the paws.

Diagnosis and treatment of licking acral dermatitis in cats

As for the diagnosis of licking acral dermatitis in cats, it can be carried out through a physical examination, since licking granulomas are easily visible on the skin. In addition, the veterinarian will use the information that the owner of the animal can provide as much as possible, about the lifestyle of the animal, its routine and the way it spends time.

All this will serve to understand the possible presence of an underlying disease or the presence of a form of stress. We know how habitual this animal is and any form of change, such as a change of home for the cat or the arrival of a new animal in the family, can cause the feline a particularly stressful emotional reaction.

Therefore the veterinarian in front of a form of acral dermatitis from licking in order to be able to discard other probable causes, will perform a differential diagnosis. That is why the doctor will take x-rays of the cat, a urinalysis and a blood test, to rule out an internal pathology.

While to exclude an external factor will proceed with a scraping of the skin, bacteriological cultures and a histological examination of the skin. Once the diagnosis of licking acral dermatitis has been identified, it will be possible to establish a therapy for the animal, which is very often variable since it depends on the underlying cause.

Bacterial infections will be treated with antibiotic, while fungal infections of the skin are commonly treated with a topical antifungal cream, applied to the affected area. As for the neurological causes of this disease, however, they are not at all easy to treat.

At most, the veterinarian can prescribe some medication to appease the cat’s anxiety and relieve stress, but often recommends contacting a behavioral veterinarian, to understand and solve the cause that pushes the animal to lick excessively.

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