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How to Keep a Dog from Licking a Wound

a dog licks its lips

Nothing’s more frustrating than a dog that gets in the way of their own healing process. If and when your dog suffers a wound, their instinct is going to be to mess with it. Almost always, your dog’s meddling with the wound is going to hurt their chances of healing quickly and without complications. So it’s time to put our heads together and determine the best strategies for how to prevent your dog from sticking their nose in places it doesn’t belong. 

Fauna Care healing sprays can make the problem go away by giving the dog wound a better chance of healing faster. It’s easy to use, mess-free, and perfect to keep around the house for minor injuries such as small cuts and burns.

This article covers:

  • Why dogs lick their wounds
  • How to restrict your dog’s access to the wound
  • How to distract your dog from the wound
  • How to help the process of healing

Why Do Dogs Lick Wounds

What’s the explanation behind a dog’s urge to lick their wounds? Licking an injury is similar to your tendency to rub where you hit your head. The rubbing/licking uses nerves to transmit the sensation, therefore blocking the feeling of pain. So licking is your dog’s way of distracting from the pain. Canine saliva has also been proven to have a mild antibacterial effect. For a feral dog that is always on the move, licking wounds can be beneficial. However, your domesticated dog has a lot more time that can lead to overlicking the injury, causing soreness and worsening the extent of the injury. Licking the wound is especially harmful for injuries that have been stitched up, as the stitches shouldn’t be interfered with. 

Dog on the floor licking his paw
Dogs are licking themselves for a number of reasons! But if they lick a wound, it’s likely to distract them from the pain. It’s time to give them a better distraction!

Methods to Restricting Dog’s Access to Wound

When dealing with a dog licking an injury, people usually first turn to methods of restricting the dog’s access to the wound. It seems to be the most straightforward strategy. Luckily there is a lot available to accomplish just that, with many types of collar products you can purchase and bandages you can make at home. But before deciding on anything, do some research on the product and ask your vet if the product is right for your dog and the type of injury. Here are a few options.

Elizabethan Collar

The famous Elizabethan collar, also known as the cone of shame. The Elizabethan collar is cone shaped and wraps around the dog’s head so they are unable to maneuver their mouth around the collar to lick at the injury or remove a bandage. To function properly the collar must be long enough that it extends just beyond the tip of the dog’s nose.

Be cautious if your dog is unfamiliar with the Elizabethan collar as it can be scary for some dogs. This type of collar can cause anxiety and perhaps prompt your dog to damage your house and further the extent of their injury in their attempt to remove the collar. Therefore if you choose the Elizabethan collar, buy a version that is see-through, and also consider a soft collar. Be gentle with your introduction of it. If it causes too much hassle don’t be hesitant to take the collar off and try a different approach. 

Dog outside, looking up and wearing an elizabethan collar
The cone of shame doesn’t have to be shameful! This collar might be just the right thing to keep your pup’s nose out of places it doesn’t belong. Your dog will better appreciate a see-through collar, or perhaps a soft collar.

Inflatable Collar

The inflatable collar isn’t for every dog, especially long-nosed and thin-necked dogs like greyhounds, Dobermans, and dachshunds. This type of collar can be purchased online and inflates as a lifebelt would. To work well the collar needs to have a close-fit to the dog’s neck to limit their ability to turn and lick the injury. That means you should check measuring instructions closely. Another challenge with the inflatable collar is that there are products of it that are easily punctured, and therefore made useless.  

Bandages, Boots, and Tapes 

With boots there are a multitude of options available to purchase. When deciding between stretchy balloon types that fit over the paw and laced up boots, you’ll need to consider your dog’s habits and the type of injury. A vet’s advice can also help you decide. 

You can also try a homemade bandage wrapped around the injury, fashioned out of an old t-shirt, sheet, or towel. The material you choose depends on the size of your dog. Bandages should be changed frequently. If it is an open wound, they should be changed every two to three days. If you notice swelling or soreness, or smell a foul odor from the wound, contact your vet immediately. 

To protect bandages, consider gaffa tape. Gaffa tape is applied over bandages and is easier to unpeel cleanly afterwards. The tape should not be applied onto dog fur or skin. Or instead of gaffa tape, try surgical tape which can be stuck directly to the dog’s skin and fur and usually easily removed after soaking in surgical spirit. 

And there are products designed specifically for the licking problem. You can buy anti-lick strips and sprays that have a certain odor that offends a dog’s sensitive nose. However these products are found least effectives by owners and these strips and sprays usually can’t be directly applied onto the wound.  

Methods to Distract Your Dog

Our next mode of defense is distraction. As said earlier the issue is overlicking, which is the direct effect of your dog having an abundance of time on their paws. So try these methods of keeping your dog’s mind off of the wound and onto more interesting tasks.

Feeding your pup usually takes no time at all. You fill the bowl with kibble and watch them scrabble down the food and lap up water in quick succession. Why not draw the process out? If If your dog isn’t too injured, hide or scatter biscuits for your dog to sniff out. You can also try kongs stuffed with peanut butter, cheese paste, or tinned dog food. Chill it in the fridge for a little while to make it solidified before serving!

As well as physical occupation there is the equally exhausting mental occupation. Try teaching some tricks, nothing too strenuous in their state of injury. Trick learning is a sure way to have them forget about their wounds.  

Dog looking up with attention
Tricks are for all dogs! Get your pup’s mind off their injury by teaching them a simple trick. Everyone loves a distraction with treats involved. 

Treatments of Wound

We want our pups to get better as soon as possible. That means everything can go back to normal and you don’t have to be on patrol for licks anymore. There are a few simple steps you can take to properly treat the dog wound at home

  1. Control the bleeding: If the wound has just been inflicted it may be bleeding. Apply a clean towel or washcloth to the wound and hold it in place with firm pressure. Amount of bleeding can depend on where the wound is located. Legs and trunk will bleed less than ears and nose.  
  2. Have a vet evaluate the wound: I can be difficult to determine the extent of the injury at home. Play it safe and set up a check-up with your vet. The vet will determine how deep the wound, its chance of infection, and will recommend treatment. The wound will either be cleaned or if it is more serious may require a surgical drain. This is also your opportunity to ask about collars and bandages you’re considering to use.  
  3. Keep the wound clean: If the wound is wrapped in a bandage it will need to be replaced frequently. Keep the wound dry and clean. If you need to clean the wound use a dry towel and gently wipe.
  4. Monitor for infection: Infection is the last thing you want, so look for the three signs of infection: excessive redness, swelling, and purulent discharge. If you find signs of infection contact your vet.

Collars, bandages, distraction, and proper treatment are great starter methods to keep your dog’s tongue away from their wounds. However you prevent your dog from licking their injury, keep in mind the pain they may be in. Your dog may display unfamiliar behaviours due to the pain, such as biting. Supervise how effective a treatment is and contact your vet if your need further advice. If you’re away from your pet for a long time or asleep be extra careful with the protection you use. By preventing your dog from licking their wounds, you’re giving them a better chance of a speedy recovery!

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