As a responsible pet owner, there will come a time when you will need to ensure your dog has appropriate wound care after seeing the vet. Whether it’s a patched up dog bite or even a recovering spay surgery scar, your vet will wrap, suture or treat the wound in order to ensure it will heal cleanly and without fuss. Yet as soon as you get home, you may realize your dog has another idea. He desperately wants to lick at the spot and you just as desperately want him to leave it alone so that it may heal.
Owners often wonder why their dogs want access to their wound. Why is your pet suddenly dedicated to attending the area? According to the Blue Cross UK website, “licking wounds is like you rubbing your head if you hit it. The nerves used to transmit the rubbing sensation block the feeling of pain or soreness.” In other words, it feels good to your canine. The area is sore and they want to make it better by licking it.
Here are some ideas to ensure your dog’s wound heals cleanly and successfully:
Persistent Monitoring with Distraction
Often owners will attempt to monitor their dog 24/7 to ensure they do not lick their wounds. When their pup attempts to access the site, owners will gently correct and distract the dog with treats or attention. While constant monitoring is critical, sometimes owners find success with this method. Yet typically owners will need to move on to stricter options to keep their dog away from their wound site.
The Elizabethan Collar or Cervical Soft Collar
The Elizabethan collar, better known as an E-collar, is often jokingly called the doggy cone of shame. It is the hard plastic cylindrical device placed around the dog’s neck traditionally used immediately following surgery. This collar enables your dog to eat and interact with his environment, but it hinders his access to most wounds.
If the E-collar seems too rigid, you may want to consider a cervical soft collar. KeepDoggiesSafe.com states the “Cervical soft collar…is a less awkward device and can be effective at stopping a pet from licking the surgical site.” Instead of a hard plastic cone, this collar is usually inflatable and might remind you of a plastic donut when placed around your dog’s neck.
T-Shirt or Baby Onesie
You may be able to restrict your pup from accessing their injuries with a clean t-shirt or baby onesie (depending upon the size of your dog). PetHelpful.com explains, “If the incision is near the abdomen or shoulder area, you can try to discourage licking by putting a t-shirt on your dog.” Articles of clothing are easy to obtain, simple to clean, and often less constricting than other methods typically suggested.
If your dog has wounds on his paws, you may consider using doggy booties to restrict access to the area. You can purchase these at most local pet stores. Yet oftentimes, these soft fabric shoes work best paired up with either an E-collar or Bitter Yuk (we will discuss Bitter Yuk in the next section) as your dog may simply be tempted to remove the booties to regain access to his injuries.
Bitter Yuk is a pet product worth keeping in the house for all types of issues from hot spots, inappropriate chewing and wound control. With a simple spray of the bottle, you will deter your dog from accessing his injuries as the taste is as described! You can use this product on its own or in conjunction with any of the other methods previously suggested. Bitter Yuk, unlike many traditional bitter sprays, does not contain alcohol and is a water-based product. WebMD does caution, however, to try out the product before relying on it, “Some dogs act like they’re [bitter deterrents] the worst thing they’ve ever tasted, while other dogs seem to like them!” Most dogs, however, tend to avoid licking or chewing any objects, including themselves, covered in Bitter Yuk spray.
Remember, ensuring your dog’s wounds stay clean is key to ensuring a full recovery. Catherine Ashe, from the Whole Dog Journal, writes that licking does more harm than good, “all that moisture and pressure can increase the damage to the wounds themselves… and promote infection.” Therefore find the product that works right for you and your dog to ensure happy healing!