Caring for Your Dog’s Wounds: Understanding Why Dogs Lick Pus

As dog owners, we all know that our furry friends can be energetic and sometimes prone to accidents. Whether it’s a scrape or a post-surgery wound, it’s essential to understand how to care for your dog’s wounds properly. One common behavior that may concern pet owners is when dogs lick their wounds, including pus. In this article, we’ll delve into the reasons behind this behavior and provide tips on how to prevent further complications.

A puppy investigates his bandaged paw as he is held by a veterinarian.

Why do Dogs Lick Pus?

Licking wounds is a natural behavior for dogs, and it serves several purposes. Here are the most common reasons why dogs lick pus or other wounds:

Pain Relief

Similar to how humans instinctively rub a sore muscle, dogs lick their wounds to alleviate discomfort. When they lick a wound, it triggers certain signals to their brain, temporarily numbing the pain. If your dog frequently licks an area with no apparent injury, it could be a sign of underlying joint pain or discomfort.

Wound Cleansing

In some cases, licking can help remove debris from fresh injuries, promoting wound cleansing. Dog saliva also contains antibacterial properties that may aid in wound healing. However, it’s important to note that this assistance is limited, and proper veterinary care is still crucial for optimal recovery.

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Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

While licking wounds is a natural behavior, dogs with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) may continue to lick the area excessively. If you suspect your dog is dealing with OCD, it’s best to seek guidance from a veterinarian who can provide appropriate advice and treatment options.

What to Do if Your Dog Keeps Licking His Wounds

While a few licks over a wound may not cause additional harm, continuous exposure to saliva can lead to various complications. These include dermatitis, reopening of the wound, delayed healing, or even a more severe bacterial infection. If you notice any signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, or unusual discharge from the wound, it’s crucial to seek immediate veterinary care.

A poodle looks happily into the distance as a droplet of drool hangs from her tongue.

Is a Dog’s Mouth Cleaner than a Human’s Mouth?

Contrary to popular belief, a dog’s mouth is not necessarily cleaner than a human’s mouth. While dogs have different bacteria in their saliva, which may assist in wound healing, their mouths can still introduce harmful bacteria to an open wound. Additionally, dogs are curious creatures and may come into contact with infectious substances, making it important to wash hands or face after receiving kisses from your pup and to avoid allowing them to lick your wounds.

Regular dental care is also essential in maintaining a healthy mouth for your dog. Dental disease can increase the amount of oral bacteria, potentially affecting the cleanliness of their mouth. Consult with your veterinarian for guidance on dental hygiene practices and oral health check-ups.

How to Stop Your Dog From Licking His Wounds

Preventing your dog from licking his wounds is crucial for faster healing and reducing the risk of infection. Here are some tips to help you achieve this:

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Elizabethan Collar

Using an Elizabethan collar, also known as the “cone of shame,” can prevent your dog from reaching and licking wounds or surgical sites. Make sure the collar extends at least two inches beyond the muzzle. Although some dogs may find it difficult to eat with the collar on, closely monitor them during brief periods when you need to remove the cone.

Soft or Inflatable Collar

For a more comfortable alternative to the traditional cone, you can opt for a softer or inflatable collar. While these collars may be more tolerated by most dogs, ensure that your dog cannot reach the wound or injury. Keep a close eye on them to ensure the collar is effective.

Dog Clothing and Recovery Suits

Pet-specific clothing, such as t-shirts, dog booties, or recovery suits, can cover and protect various types of wounds. Make sure the clothing fits properly and is not too tight, as this could cause discomfort for your dog.

Wound Dressing and Bandages

If advised by your veterinarian, you can apply wound dressings or bandages to prevent your pet from infecting their wounds further. However, it’s essential to seek professional guidance to ensure you use the appropriate materials and techniques.

A dachshund in a flexi collar and t-shirt looks at something off-camera.

Remember, it’s always best to consult with a veterinarian for advice tailored specifically to your dog’s unique needs. They can provide you with further guidance on wound care, pain management, and recommendations for supplements or calming aids if necessary.

For additional information on your dog’s health and well-being, please visit the Katten TrimSalon blog.