Q. My 10 yr Chow mix chews a sore on her front leg unless we keep a "cone collar" on her. What can we do?
JESSICA L DESROSIERS
A. Lick Granulomas (chewing sores on body parts) are very common in dogs and can be triggered by an initial health event, and then become a behavioral issue. Breaking the "habit" of licking can be hard at times, and takes a lot of time and patience. It is also a good idea to make sure any initial or underlying problems in the area (such as infections or parasites) is cleared up.
While the cone or covering the area with long socks if on the forearm or foot is a traditional method of breaking the habit, there are new products out called "no lick strips" which can be applied onto a bandage over the affected area. These strips utilize a minor form of positive punishment- when the dog licks the strip he gets a minor electrostatic shock or bad taste in his mouth, deterring him from continuing. The strips have had good success with use when compared to just using an Elizabethan collar.
Treating any underlying stress or anxiety can also help to decrease licking behaviors. Calming medications and treats, removing the stressors, providing a safe place for your dog to "hide" during stress or anxiety, or even using calming pheromones can all help with stress reduction.