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How to Manage Dog Wound Licking Without the Use of a Collar

Learn practical techniques for managing dog wound licking without a collar. Discover safe and gentle methods to prevent your canine companion from aggravating their injury. Keep your pet comfortable and promote faster healing with these helpful strategies.

How to prevent your dog from licking his wounds? It is a question we often ask ourselves when faced with this problem.

Dog wound licking. Dogs are prone to getting wounds from various causes, such as accidents, fights, bites, scratches, or surgery. And no matter how severe or minor a dog’s injury is, one thing is consistent—they will insist on licking it.

Many dog owners believe that letting dogs lick their wounds is beneficial and will help them heal faster. While there is some truth to this, dogs generally tend to lick their wounds excessively, which can cause more harm than good.

This article will explain why dogs lick their wounds, why it can be a problem, and how to manage injury licking without using a collar.

Why Dogs Lick Their Wounds

Wound licking is an instinctive behaviour that dogs share with many other animals, such as cats, rodents, horses, and primates. It has several purposes:

  • To help soothe the pain and discomfort of the wound. Licking the site of the damage overstimulates the brain, which in turn can help temporarily numb the pain. This is similar to humans rubbing or holding their wounds.
  • To clean away debris and bacteria. Studies have shown that dog saliva has a small amount of bacteria-killing properties. However, the effect is slight and only effective against Escherichia coli Streptococcus canis. So while licking will slightly help decrease these two types of bacteria, many other bacteria can start overgrowing in the wound.
  • To alleviate itching during the healing process. As the wound heals, it can become dry and scaly, which can cause itching. Dogs will lick to moisturize and relieve the itchiness.

However, while these reasons seem valid, they do not justify letting your dog lick their wounds. Licking can do more harm than good in most cases.

Alternative Methods to Manage Wound Licking Without a Collar

If you don’t want to use a collar for your dog, or if your dog cannot tolerate wearing one, there are other methods you can try to manage wound licking without a collar. Some of these methods are:

Distraction techniques: toys, treats, games, etc.

One way to keep your dog from licking its wound is to distract them with something they enjoy. You can offer them toys, treats, games, puzzles, or anything else to keep their mind and mouth busy. You can also spend more time with your dog and give them extra attention and affection.

However, it would help if you were careful not to reward your dog for licking their wound or make them think it will get them attention. It would be best to distract your dog when they are not licking its wound or stop licking it on command.

There are simple solutions that do not cause any discomfort to the dog because they do not restrict its movements.
There are undoubtedly less invasive methods than the Elizabethan collar.

Positive reinforcement: praise, rewards, etc.

Another way to stop your dog from licking its wound is to teach them not to do it using positive reinforcement. Positive reinforcement means rewarding your dog for doing something you want or not doing something you don’t want them to do.

You can use a verbal cue such as “no” or “leave it” when you see your dog licking their wound and then praise or treat them when they stop. You can also use a clicker or a whistle to mark the desired behaviour and reward your dog. You should repeat this process until your dog learns to associate not licking their wound with getting something good.

However, you should avoid using negative reinforcement or punishment to stop your dog from licking its wound. Negative reinforcement or punishment means taking away something your dog likes or adding something your dog dislikes when they do something you don’t want them to do. 

A chemical analysis of canine saliva showed that it contains antimicrobial and antifungal proteins. This is why it helps heal various wounds and reduce scarring.

But the presence of other germs in this liquid runs the risk of aggravating the situation, especially in the case of larger or deeper wounds.

For example, you should not yell at, hit, or spray your dog with water when they lick their wound. This can make your dog fearful, anxious, or aggressive and can damage your relationship with them.

Wound dressing: bandages, wraps, etc.

Another way to prevent your dog from licking its wound is to cover it with gentle wound dressing methods, such as a bandage, a wrap, or gauze. A wound dressing can help protect the damage from dirt, bacteria, and licking and absorb any discharge or blood from the wound.

However, you should only use a wound dressing if your veterinarian advises you to do so. Some wounds may heal better if left open and exposed to air. You should also ensure the wound dressing is clean, dry, and changed regularly. 

You should also monitor your dog for any signs of infection or allergic reaction to the wound dressing.

Natural remedies: bitter sprays, herbal ointments, etc.

Another way to discourage your dog from licking its wound is to apply some natural remedies with a bitter or unpleasant taste or smell. 

For example, you can use bitter sprays, herbal ointments, vinegar, lemon juice, or hot sauce on or around the wound area. These substances can make licking the wound unpleasant for your dog and can also have some antiseptic or anti-inflammatory properties.

However, it would be best to be careful not to use anything harmful or toxic to your dog. You should also test a small amount of the substance on a healthy area of your dog’s skin before applying it to the wound. 

You should consult your veterinarian before using natural remedies for your dog’s wound.

How to Tell If Your Dog’s Wound Is Infected

Sometimes, your dog’s wound may become infected despite your best efforts. This can happen due to bacteria entering the damage through licking, scratching, or contact with dirt or other contaminants. Infection can delay the healing process and cause severe complications if left untreated.

Licking any wound exposes the dog to an increased risk of infection due to the bacteria in the mouth (saliva is not a universal killer), which can impede healing due to continuous rubbing and breaking sutures in the case of surgical wounds.

That’s why it’s essential to monitor your dog’s wound closely and look for signs of infection, such as:

  • Redness or swelling
  • Discharge or pus
  • Foul odour
  • Fever or lethargy
  • Loss of appetite or thirst

You should seek veterinary attention immediately if you notice these signs in your dog’s wound. Your veterinarian can diagnose the infection and prescribe the appropriate treatment, such as antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs, or surgery.

Conclusion

In conclusion, dogs lick their wounds for several reasons: to help soothe the pain and discomfort of the injury, to clean away debris and bacteria, to alleviate itching during the healing process, and because they feel a draw to lick the wounds of humans they consider to be part of their pack. However, letting your dog lick its wound is not recommended because it can cause more harm than good.

You can use a collar or alternative methods such as distraction techniques, positive reinforcement, wound dressing, or natural remedies to prevent wound licking. The best way for your dog will depend on several factors, such as the type and location of the wound, your dog’s personality and temperament, and your veterinarian’s advice.

You should consult your veterinarian before using any method to stop your dog from licking its wound. Your veterinarian can examine your dog’s wound and recommend the best treatment and care for it. Your veterinarian can also prescribe antibiotics or painkillers and monitor your dog’s healing progress.

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Jacob Kay is a Veterinary Advisor at WWD, a passionate dog lover, and a dedicated advocate for animal welfare. With vast expertise in veterinary medicine, he generously shares his insights on dog care, covering essential topics like nutrition, exercise, health, and safety. As a responsible pet owner himself, Jacob's knowledge and passion extend to two adorable pet dogs. He strongly advocates for spaying and neutering as a vital step in curbing the population of homeless animals and promoting a healthier, happier pet community.

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Written by Jacob Kay

Jacob Kay is a Veterinary Advisor at WWD, a passionate dog lover, and a dedicated advocate for animal welfare. With vast expertise in veterinary medicine, he generously shares his insights on dog care, covering essential topics like nutrition, exercise, health, and safety. As a responsible pet owner himself, Jacob's knowledge and passion extend to two adorable pet dogs. He strongly advocates for spaying and neutering as a vital step in curbing the population of homeless animals and promoting a healthier, happier pet community.

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