Dog Health: How to Stop a Dog From Chewing on a Wound
Are Elizabethan Collars the Only Way Out?
Why Do Dogs Lick and Chew on Wounds?
If your dog is chewing on himself, or on a hot spot or other type of wound, you may be dealing with two problems: the wound itself, and on top of that, your dog repeatedly pestering it. The problem may be challenging and quite troublesome for the simple fact that the wound is never given an opportunity to heal. But why do dogs seem to enjoy so much chewing on themselves?
When your dog chews on himself, it is very important to understand the source of the wound. Was the wound caused by something (ie a scrape, scratch or bug bite) or was it self-inflicted?
The difference about the two is very important. If your dog is causing self-inflicted wounds, the treatment plan will require a careful assessment as to why the dog is doing that. Self-inflicted wounds in dogs are often seen in cases of separation anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorders, boredom, stress and frustration. In these cases, the dog chews simply because it helps relieve stress, anxiety or boredom, in a similar fashion as some nervous people resort to nail biting.
When it comes to these types of problems, the underlying trigger will need addressed. Yes, you can stop a dog from chewing, but the dog will still feel the need to do so and will persevere if changes in his lifestyle are not made.
If the wound is caused by a scratch, hot spot, bug bite or other type of wound, and therefore, is not self inflicted, consider having the wound assessed by your veterinarian and then try some of the solutions below to stop your dog from biting the area. In these cases, the dog tends to lick and chew on the wound because it hurts and the dog is trying to get some relief. Dogs have a natural inclination to lick their wounds, and this instinct is not to be blamed.
According to veterinarian Patty Khuly, a practicing veterinarian based in Miami, Florida, if humans lacked opposable thumbs, and thus, were unable to access disinfectants, they would possibly lick their injuries too. Also it appears that the saliva of a dog contains several beneficial compounds, meant to destroy the cell walls of gram-positive bacteria, promote wound healing, decrease pain and inhibit bacterial growth! All these marvelous enzymes and compounds along with their benefits, are listed in her article on Vetstreet.
However, while a little licking may be beneficial, dogs seem to overdo it and even get obsessive about it. Too much licking along with the abrasive effect of the teeth should the dog nibble on the wound too, may lead to problems.
Also, a wound kept moist by constant licking will create the best environment for bacteria to set in and prevents the wound from healing. Soon, a tiny wound could become a bloody mess and may develop into a hard-to-heal acral lick granuloma. A wound that would heal in a few days, instead may last for weeks and even months in severe cases. How to stop the vicious cycle? There are several solutions.
Option 1: Invest in a Elizabethan Collar
One of the best ways comes straight from your veterinarian clinic or favorite pet store. As a former animal hospital assistant, I have helped countless dog owners fit those lamp-shade collars to protect a dog from pestering its stitches. Many dogs found the collar humiliating and many owners found it funny. Truth is; it is effective and can really help prevent your dog from repeatedly pestering the wound. However, some smart/persistent dogs may figure a way to get it off (they push it against something) or may find a way to chew part of it.
If you need a temporary Elizabeth collar, you may want to read how to make a home-made Elizabethan collar using a bucket, an ice-cream container or some cardboard. See how I made a temporary e-collar using a Finding Nemo place mat. This one lasted one night; just enough to get my boy through before purchasing an authentic one at the vet's office the next day!
Option 2: Invest in a bottle of Bitter Yuk!
Not all dogs are tolerant of an Elizabethan Collar and some manage to find a way to get it off. If you need to leave your dog home alone and you really need to stop your dog from pestering the wound, you can invest in a bottle of Bitter Yuk.
Please note; this is not your average bottle of bitter apple spray which contains alcohol and may cause stinging. This is a water-based product that will repel your dog from licking/chewing his wounds. The product is non-sticky and clear and very effective.
This is what I have been using on my dog Kaiser which every summer gets an annoying hot spot which lasts longer than it's supposed to because the moment I leave (as soon as he hears the engine), he starts chewing on it- I know because I recorded his behavior-.
The taste is pretty awful, I know because I accidentally sprayed a bit on my lip by accident and it is three days and I still taste it if I lick my lip. Kaiser has left his wound alone so far; I do see him thinking about it though, turning his head and then changing his mind as if he is reminding himself of the terrible taste. The hot spot seems like it is finally recovering too. I always shave hot spots to keep them dry and to allow them to heal more promptly.
Option 3: Use Boxers or a T-shirt
At times, dog owners were calling our veterinarian hospital asking for desperate tips to stop a dog from licking its wounds. In such cases, if the wound or stitches was near back legs, rump, tail or genital area, and the dog could not be seen that same day, we recommended letting the dog wear a pair of men's boxers. If the wound was in the abdominal or chest area, wearing a t-shirt was another option. Of course, an eye must be kept on the dog since many dogs are pretty good in removing these items, but the boxers or shirts made the task more difficult.
Option 4: Train "Leave it"
The leave it command which every dog should know can be expanded to training a dog to leave its wounds alone. Of course, this command will only work when you are around. The main disadvantage is the fact that your dog starts associating "leave it" with your presence, and therefore, the moment you turn your back, leave the room or leave the home, your dog will start pestering the wound. Make sure when you ask "leave it" to give a stuffed Kong or a toy to keep your dog occupied and keep his mind off the wound. In order to train the leave it or drop it command, read: How to Train your Dog the Leave it and Drop it Command"
Option 5: Ask Your Vet for Itch Relief Products
Many times, the poor dog is licking/chewing the wound because his skin is itchy. In such a case, the dog can be helped with some products meant to relieve itching. Your vet may prescribe a product such a diphenidramine (plain Benadryl), a cortisone-based spray, medicated shampoo or even steroids for severe cases. For natural remedies Dr. Mark1961 has a helpful hub: Natural Dog Health: Allergies.
As seen, there may potential solutions for your problem. As much as the problem is frustrating, you can manage your dog with close supervision when you are around, and the aid of helpful tools to deter unwanted licking and chewing of the wound when your are away.
For further reading
- Dog Health: Why Foxtails are a Threat to Your Dog
What dangers do foxtails pose to dogs? The answer is many! Learn what symptoms suggest these grass awns are embedding and why it is important to immediately see the vet.
- Why is my dog licking its paws?
It is a very frustrating scenario to watch, when your dog starts licking incessantly its paws, especially when your dog loses interest in its surroundings. Yet, dogs, more often than not, have a specific reason for engaging is such behavior. It is...
- How to treat a dog's paw pad injury
A paw pad injury may be a challenging injury to deal with. Because the area supports a dog's weight and because it is used in order to walk, it will undergo constant friction, pressure and also it will be difficult to keep clean. Another issue, is...
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Questions & Answers
Where can I buy Bitter Yuck?
Bitter Yuck by Nature's Vet is sold in most pet stores, and can be found online.Helpful 13
© 2012 Adrienne Janet Farricelli