Contrary to popular belief, your dog’s mouth is not really that clean. Dogs normally do a good job of tending to their own wounds, but excessive licking can actually be detrimental to the healing process. A little licking is normally fine, but you should intervene if the dog is disrupting the wound.
Why Dogs Lick
Dogs lick for a variety of reasons, but a few quick licks can quickly turn into an obsession if not properly monitored. Cuts are painful, and your dog will lick her wounds in an attempt to comfort herself and lessen the pain. Saliva may help loosen grime and debris around the cut and helps keep these foreign bodies from falling into the wound. Some dogs lick as a matter of habit, and will mindlessly lap at their wounds because they have nothing better to do.
Some of the most common forms of wound protection are restrictive collars, also known as Elizabethan collars. These large collars are longer than the end of the dog’s nose and fit tightly around the dog’s neck, physically preventing her from licking the wound. Elizabethan collars are often made from plastic or cardboard, and can be reused in the event of future injuries. These collars may prevent your dog from eating or drinking normally, so remove them during meal times.
If your dog’s cut is on her torso or along her back, an old T-shirt is the perfect lick-proof barrier. Slip a small T-shirt over the dog’s head and pull her front legs through the arm holes. Pull the shirt snugly against her body, and gather the fabric near the dog’s tail. Wrap a large rubber band or hair elastic to keep the shirt in place, and watch the dog carefully to make sure she doesn’t try to remove the shirt. Give the dog a couple treats or a chew toy to distract her, and she will quickly forget about the shirt.
Wrap the Wound
Leg or tail wounds can be more difficult to protect and may need to be wrapped to ward off an incessant licker. Protect the cut with a small piece of clean gauze, and wrap a strip of medical tape around the dog’s leg or tail at the top of the gauze. Add another strip of tape to the bottom of the gauze, taking care not to wrap the tape too tight. Cover the gauze with a section of self-adhesive vet wrap bandaging tape, wrapping the tape around the leg or tail three or four times to hold it in place. Spray the outside of the tape with chew-deterrent spray, which you can purchase from your vet or a pet store. Change the wrap at least once a day to allow the wound to heal.