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What Happens if my Dog Licks its Incision Site?

by Geoff Works |

Dogs like to lick their body parts as a way of grooming or expressing themselves. They also tend to lick their wounds in an attempt to clean them. While their saliva has antibacterial properties, letting them lick or chew on a wound will do more harm than good. Fresh wounds from an injury or incision from procedures such as a TPLO surgery or spaying may get infected and take longer to heal. Keeping your dog from licking the fresh wound or incision site is vital for its proper health and recovery.

This blog will talk about the various reasons your dog licks its wounds, how you can prevent it, as well as other post-surgery care tips for your pet.

Why Does My Dog Keep Licking Its Wound?

After your pet comes home from an operation and its anesthesia has worn off, your dog might be inclined to check out the incision site and start licking the area. For some, this is merely a response to pain or the curiosity of your pet. But if this behavior persists, it can worsen the condition of the incision site and impede its proper and speedy recovery. Below are some common reasons dogs tend to lick their wounds:

The incision site is itchy

Just like in humans, a stitch or fresh wound can become extremely itchy. Your pet may have the impulsive yearning to scratch, lick, or even nibble on its wounds. This is dangerous, as your dog might tear the stitches open or irritate the wound as it scrapes the healing scabs. 

It’s your dog’s way of coping with the pain 

For many dogs, licking is more of a natural urge to examine the area it might be feeling uncomfortable with. Additionally, licking results from your dog trying to alleviate and soothe the pain and swelling of its wounds as it recovers. 

Boredom or restlessness

Other than pain or itch, your canine may lick its wound to fight off boredom and stress. For example, dogs that have a high level of anxiety after surgery may find themselves licking their wounds more frequently. This action might be relaxing to them or gives them a sense of gratification. 

Is it Safe for my Dog to Lick its Surgical Incision? 

Despite evidence suggesting that dog saliva does have some antimicrobial and antibacterial properties, licking is harmful to fresh incisions and recovering wounds and should be prevented. 

Excessive licking can irritate the incision site causing inflammation, leading to further infection, and will even cause it to reopen. Licking and chewing on the wound will also tear the sutures and require you to visit the vet again to close it properly. Take note that closing reopened surgical incisions is more complicated than suturing during an operation.

Dogs that fixate on their wounds can worsen the condition of their injuries. They tend to be more focused on trying to lick and clean their wound while the closed incision site is still fresh due to the procedure. So the days right after an injury or surgery are the most vital time to prevent them from making their condition worse.

How Can I Prevent my Dog From Licking its Stitches?

Keeping the wounds of your dog clean and out of reach is vital if you want it to heal quickly and adequately. 

Here are some tips to help you stop your dog from licking, chewing, and biting its incision wound from a procedure:

Use a Cone or E-collar

After surgery, most vets will place a cone on your dog to prevent it from licking the incision. A cone, officially known as an Elizabethan collar or E-collar, is usually made of plastic. It has a wide surface area that prevents your dog from reaching to lick or scratch its wound. 

The cone is typically used for about one to four weeks, depending on what your vet recommends and your pet’s healing process. 

However, using a cone can be harmful to your dog in the long run. These collars are generally uncomfortable. They also prevent your dog from eating, drinking, and moving about freely. While cones and collars are the conventional choice, they can do more harm than good in the recovery of your dog. Instead, you can use different alternatives to keep your dog from touching its incision site.

Bandages & Sleeves

One of the best alternatives that you can use over the cone-of-shame is a leg sleeve. Unlike the cone of shame, limb sleeves and bandages are safer, more comfortable, and less intrusive for your dog. They also allow your pet to move around normally as its incision site heals. The sleeves also protect the wound from dirt, moisture, licking, and biting so that the incision will close up properly. These specialized sleeves also do not hinder your dog as much as they recover, allowing them to enjoy basic activties as their wound heals.  

Here at Lick Sleeve, we’ve produced the most comfortable, water-resistant, durable, and breathable sleeve on the market. If you need post surgical leg-coverage, we suggest you get fitted for one today!

Canine Clothes & Apparel

Another less intrusive option for preventing your dog from licking or biting its incision site is using a specialized shirt, recovery suit, compression onesie, or other similar clothing products. These outfits should cover the incision site properly so your dog will not be tempted to lick, scratch, or bite into it. Some brands have breathable fabric and helping keep your pet more cool and comfortable. Just make sure that they’re not too tight so that your dog can breathe comfortably.

Medication can help prevent his urge

If clothes, cones, and sleeves won’t do the trick, your vet can recommend anti-inflammatory medication to help your dog manage the pain from its wounds. Since licking and scratching can also be a response to pain, and these medications can greatly prevent your dog from getting its wound infected.

There are special strips that you can apply around the stitches that give off an off-putting flavor, which helps against licking. 

Remember, keeping your dog from licking and biting at its incision site is vital if you want your pet to recover better.

Signs of Wound Healing in Dogs and Aftercare

Depending on your procedure, your dog may begin to regain some of its energy and start moving around normally within a few days or a few months. Here are some signs of a recovering wound in dogs:

  • Redness at the incision site begins to fade
  • Swelling at the incision site has gradually flattened
  • The edges of the wound will begin to close together
  • The color of his wound may lighten up

But if you notice any discharge at the incision site, such as a small amount of blood or pus-like fluid, call your veterinarian right away, as this can indicate a possible deeper infection.

Post-Surgery Incision Aftercare for Canines

To take better care of your dog after his operation, make sure to check his incision site daily and clean it by following your veterinarian’s instructions. More so, keep your dog confined, to prevent running, jumping, or playing with other dogs. Your veterinarian may give you special instructions about how long your dog should rest after surgery as well.

To learn more about how you can help take care of your dog and treat other conditions or injuries, explore the Lick Sleeve blog today.



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