Whenever a dog gets an injury, it's instinctive for him to lick it. This is partly because it's all he can do. Sometimes, it's fine, but other times, you need to stop your dog from licking a wound because overlicking can cause more harm than good.
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There's a belief that a dog's saliva can help heal wounds. This has some truth to it, but unfortunately, the healing properties of dog saliva are overblown. While there does seem to be some anti-bacterial and anti-microbial properties in saliva, these beneficial properties are very slight, according to research cited by the American Kennel Club. Worse yet, a dog that won't stop licking his wounds can lick to the point of making his skin raw.
Causes of dog licking
If you need to stop your dog from licking her leg raw and there's not an injury spot, you could be dealing with an allergy. According to Best Friends Animal Society, the most common cause of excessive dog licking is an allergy. It could be an allergy to flea bites, something in the environment, or something in her food.
It's common for dogs to lick between their toes, which may cause skin irritation that makes them want to lick even more. Sometimes, this cause can be boredom or a way to self-soothe out of anxiety. Either way, the constant licking typically makes things worse. Atopic dermatitis is the clinical name for an inflammatory and chronic skin disease caused by an allergic reaction.
Dogs can be allergic to the same types of things as humans, including grass, mold, and dust mites. The classic sign of this is itching, primarily the face, ears, and feet. If you think your dog may be allergic to something in the environment, try wiping off her paws and fur after she comes inside. Allergies to something else, like fleas or food, will likely require a veterinarian's intervention to be sure that the cause is identified.
Dog licking paws remedies
One of the classic ways to prevent a dog from licking his paw is to put an Elizabethan collar, also called a cone, on him. This cone fits over the neck and extends out like a lampshade to prevent the mouth from being able to reach the skin. Sometimes, a dog can still lick his paw with a cone on.
If your dog can still lick his paw with a cone on, there are some alternatives. Healthy Paws Pet Insurance notes that there are different types of collars that may be effective. Some collar alternatives are inflatable and are similar to a travel pillow for a human. It may also be necessary to keep the paw covered with a booty or sock.
It is a good idea to stop a dog from licking a wound of any sort because licking and chewing can slow healing by reopening wounds. If there are any stitches or other wound closures, your dog's licking can break down the stitches and cause the wound to reopen. Keeping a wound covered with a basic wrapped bandage may be enough to break the licking habit. However, keep a close eye on your dog so that he doesn't chew off the bandage.
When dogs won’t stop licking
According to Blue Cross, it's worth trying some distraction techniques if your dog just won't stop licking. For instance, give her a puzzle toy with some food inside that keeps her occupied or try a frozen ice cube containing gravy or meat broth. This might be messy, but it could distract her enough to prevent her from licking her paw.
If your dog's injury is not just on a paw, there are body suits that can be purchased that cover your dog's entire body (or at least most of it). A similar approach could be tried with a T-shirt that is fastened on with laces or surgical tape.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
- American Kennel Club: Should Dogs Lick Wounds To Heal Them?
- Best Friends Animal Society: Dog Licking Paws Obsessively: Causes and Treatment
- Healthy Paws Pet Insurance: Cone Alternatives: How to Stop Your Pet From Licking Wounds
- Blue Cross: How to Stop Dogs From Licking Their Wounds
- Grannick's Bitter Apple