Fact checked

How Do I Prevent Dog Wound Licking?

Dog Care
8 minutes read
If your dog has a surface wound, they may be prone to licking it, as their saliva has been rumored to provide healing factors. However, this is not always the case.
Expert reviewed by:  
Written by:
Susana Bradford
Published on:  
September 7, 2022
Updated on:  
September 7, 2022

In the animal kingdom, it is instinctive for many animals to lick their wounds. Dog wound licking is very common, and while it may be intuitive, it can cause problems for the dog.

Although there are many myths about the instinctual reasoning behind the urge to lick wounds, including that a dog's saliva has antibacterial or healing properties, wound licking can impede the healing process and even result in infection. It’s important to keep wounds clean, especially on emotional support animals, so they can get back to helping you live the best life possible.

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What are the Causes of Dog Wounds?

A dog's wound may result from a surgical incision, injury, or a complication from simple skin irritation. Dogs often cause open wounds or sores from excessive biting, scratching, or licking of irritated areas. Dog wounds or sores that result from irritation are called "hot spots."

A hot spot is a skin infection that happens quickly and is often caused by something that irritates the skin. It can be caused by inadequate grooming, fleas, mites, or other skin irritants. Licking and biting are frequent symptoms of hot spots and perpetuate a cycle, slowing down the healing process.

Whether a dog's wound results from surgery, injury, or irritation, the most important thing to do once a wound has been stitched or bleeding staunched is to prevent infection. Specific prescription or over-the-counter medications may be necessary to reduce itching and avoid disease. Still, keeping the wound clean and preventing the dog from licking the injury is also essential. 

If a bandage can be applied, it will help prevent the dog from licking or biting, but the odds are they will merely tear the bandage off.

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How Can I Prevent My Dog from Licking Its Wounds?

Dogs can be stubborn creatures, as well as creatures of habit. If something itches, they will scratch. If something irritates them, they will do what is necessary to relieve the irritation, and however, sometimes, their methods can lead to further irritation and symptoms. 

Like there are ways to break habits, there are ways to stop or prevent your dog from licking its wounds.

Elizabethan Collar

An Elizabethan collar is one of the best ways to stop a dog from licking wounds. An Elizabethan collar, also known as an e-collar or dog cone, is a veterinarian apparatus worn around the dog's neck and obstructs the head from reaching other parts of the body. 

The e-collar looks like a high, wide collar with a satellite dish-like appearance. It acts as a barrier between the dog's head and the rest of the body, preventing them from biting or licking. The wound is left to heal by avoiding dog wound licking without added moisture, irritation, and germs.

Veterinarians frequently recommend e-collars to prevent dog wound licking after surgeries such as spaying and neutering and after any procedure that may require stitches. Similarly, groomers and veterinarians recommend an e-collar when treating hot spots. 

While these devices may be slightly annoying to the dog, significantly when sleeping or eating, they do not interfere with regular daily activities. Successful wound-licking prevention will aid healing and reduce the risk of costly and potentially dangerous infections. 

Collars and cones are available at most pet supply stores and may also be available from your dog's veterinarian.

Inflatable Collar

An inflatable collar is another excellent way to keep your emotional support animal from licking its wounds. Inflatable collars are a more comfortable alternative to standard hard plastic collars and are available at most online pet stores. Ensure to get an excellent fit for your dog so it is comfortable even when sleeping.

Be picky when choosing a collar model, as some models are easily punctured. Another challenge with an inflatable collar is that it does not suit long-nosed and thin-necked dogs. Consider using a non-inflatable collar in such cases, though this is not the most comfortable option.

Dog Clothing

An easy and effective method to stop your ESA dog from licking its wounds is by covering it with pet clothes or a well-fitted t-shirt. Other clothes are specifically designed to cover a dog's wounds.

Using an old t-shirt can prevent dog wound licking and biting. Tying it around the dog's wound, similar to a multi-tailed bandage or almost like a onesie for a human infant, is excellent for tiny dogs.

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Bandages

Out of sight, out of mind. Bandaging is an efficient method of concealing wounds from a dog. If you don't have a bandage, you can alternatively cover the injury with a cloth. Not only does bandaging prevent your dog from licking the wound, but it also keeps the wound clean, which promotes faster healing.

Remember, your dog requires oxygen and constant blood flow to heal its wounds. So, loosen the bandages! To do this, ensure the bandage and padding don't have creases.

Consult your veterinarian on how often you should replace the bandages. In most cases, the recommended time for open wounds is two to three days. Also, see a vet if there is swelling or soreness, a stinky bandage, or if the area appears more irritated or to be bothering the dog more than before.

Boots

Dog boots are an excellent investment if you plan on taking your emotional support animal running or hiking. Boots may be worn alone or over a bandage or dressing. Get at least one size bigger if you plan to use it over a bandage.

You could also opt for a gaffer instead of duct tape to cover the bandages. Gaffer tape is handy since it's easy to remove, although it does adhere poorly to dog skin or fur. Surgical tape is better because it is readily available. Although it occasionally sticks to fur or skin, you can easily unpeel it.

Anti-Lick Strips and Sprays

You can also use anti-lick strips and sprays to stop the dog from licking wounds. Choose sprays and strips made with natural materials to protect your pet from toxic substances. Certain substances may be harmful to your dog, and if they lick the wound after it is sprayed, they may ingest harmful toxins. 

All-natural sprays work best, using essential oils and organic materials to prevent allergic or chemical reactions. Like any spray, it may sting or cause your dog to squirm, especially if the wound is open. Be wary of using sprays or strips on open wounds. It is best to wait until the injury is scabbed over before spraying.

If your ESA dog continues to lick wounds despite the unpleasant taste, you should consider other options, such as distraction techniques.

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What Distraction Techniques Can I Use to Prevent my Dog From Licking its Wounds?

Dogs are easy to distract with the proper object and method. When dogs are bored, they tend to find trouble, especially if they have an irritating wound making them feel itchy. You can utilize plenty of distraction methods to make your dog forget all about its wound.

Hugs and Treats

You'll probably want to give your dog lots of hugs, belly rubs, and treats. Be sure to offer high praise and loving attention, especially if they are in pain.

Keep Them Active

The best way to prevent a dog from licking a wound is to keep its tongue and paws occupied.

For example, you can switch that bowl of food and opt to scatter the dog's biscuits all around the house. By doing so, your dog will spend a significant amount of time finding the hidden biscuit, distracting it from licking its wounds.

You could also use plastic bottles with holes to feed the dog biscuits. This way, the dog lacks direct access to the biscuits and has to knock and kick the bottle. Ensure the bottle is solid enough to prevent the dog from breaking and ingesting it.

Mental Tricks

A better distraction is mental occupation, which is just as productive as the physical one. Teach your dog mental tricks that distract it from scratching its wounds.

You can use any of these methods individually or blend various protective measures. Keep in mind what works for one dog might not work for another. What helps a scratched paw heal quickly may not do the same for a surgical incision. You need to evaluate the effectiveness of the chosen strategy regularly.

Consult a veterinarian if your pet continues to lick its wounds despite your efforts, as this may indicate that it is in pain.

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Final Thoughts

Nobody likes it when their beloved pooch is in pain or has a wound, but there are plenty of ways to help aid recovery while distracting your pup from worsening the wound. The myth that dogs' saliva contains healing properties and bacteria can be a harmful thought, as they can potentially infect their wound and lead to further complications down the road.

Be sure to contact your vet for any concerns and how to properly bandage an animal wound, especially if it is a surgical incision.

Visit Pettable's blog for more information on pet care and other helpful resources.

Meet the author:
Susana Bradford

Susana is an avid animal lover and has been around animals her entire life, and has volunteered at several different animal shelters in Southern California. She has a loving family at home that consists of her husband, son, two dogs, and one cat. She enjoys trying new Italian recipes, playing piano, making pottery, and outdoor hiking with her family and dogs in her spare time.