We, as adults, have all learned not to scratch our wounds. This is because, as children, we were taught that it would only cause our wound to become infected. Dogs cannot grasp what we are telling them, though – not well enough to understand that scratching their wounds can compound their severity.
Let’s examine dogs, wounds, and scratching, and see what we can find out.
Why does my dog scratch a wound?
You were watching your dog run and play in the backyard when she stopped and yelped quite loudly. She immediately began licking and scratching one particular area. You ran outside to investigate and found a nail sticking out of the fence. She had ripped her skin open with the nail while running close to the fence.
She has had all her shots, and you have doctored her wound religiously. However, it seems that the wound won’t heal because she is constantly scratching it, and now, it is leaking pus. Why does your dog keep scratching her wound (I mean – it’s got to hurt)?
The wound itches.
The answer is easy – wounds really itch. Plus, the hair may have been shaved to administer medical treatment, and this may cause the wound to itch even worse. Just because we don’t scratch our wounds anymore doesn’t mean we aren’t tempted to scratch them.
Think about it. Some of them itch enough to drive us absolutely insane, and we don’t have hair everywhere to get ingrown like dogs do, so they probably itch even worse than us.
Scratching releases serotonin.
There is still another reason why dogs scratch their wounds, though. When they do, it hurts, and it causes their bodies to release serotonin, a chemical found in a dog’s or even a human’s body that fights pain.
Sometimes, if you are in a lot of pain in an ambulance, the first responder may pinch you hard and hold it for a minute (I mean hard) and then, let go. This will cause the release of serotonin in your body to help fight the pain until they can get you to the hospital. Scratching a wound works by the same properties.
This essentially also means, though, that it’s a vicious circle. She scratches more, and that only makes her itch more.
These are the reasons why dogs scratch their wounds.
How to stop my dog from scratching a wound?
However, scratching a wound can certainly cause it to get infected, but it can also cause a secondary infection. So, it is vital that you find a way to stop your dog from scratching her wound. Here are a few methods that have worked for others.
Apply some antibiotic cream or ointment and a bandage over the wound.
Yes, if you apply a little antibacterial ointment or cream and a bandage to cover the wound, it will greatly reduce the circulation of airflow to the wound, but it will keep her from being able to scratch it to the point of secondary infection. The ointment may even help it heal faster.
Put a t-shirt or a Recovery Suit® on her.
If the wound is anywhere on her torso, shoulders, or upper front legs, you can put a t-shirt on her, or for just her torso, a Recovery Suit® would work well. Not only would this create a barrier between her nails and the wound, but she would look adorable.
Where the trouble comes in is when she figures out how to outsmart the t-shirt and get underneath it. You won’t have that problem with a Recovery Suit®, as it is a snug-fitting jacket. It is made of breathable polyester fabric.
Put an Elizabethan collar on her.
If her wound is anywhere on her upper neck or head, an Elizabethan collar will keep her from scratching it. An Elizabethan collar is a funny-looking contraption that looks like a cone where the small end goes around her neck and the large end grows out toward her face.
This collar, often called the “cone of shame,” keeps dogs from being able to access their body with their mouth.
None of these methods should be applied too tightly. Snug is one thing, but a wound needs oxygen for the healing process to take place.
How can I stop my dog from licking a wound?
Licking her wound can be just as bad as scratching it. Yes, a dog’s saliva can help to clean dirt and debris from a wound, and it does have minor antimicrobial and antibacterial properties. However, her licking her wound can do more harm than good.
Licking her wound a lot can quickly cause it to become irritated, and the irritation can lead to infections, hot spots, and possibly even self-mutilation. Licking can cause surgical sites to reopen, and cleaning and stitching them closed the second time is more complicated than the first.
To prevent your dog from licking her wound, try these same methods that work to prevent scratching, plus, there are a couple more.
Use a bandage with antibiotic ointment or cream.
Using some antibiotic cream or ointment with a bandage that fits the wound is a good idea, because it will not only create a barrier between the wound and your dog’s nails, but it will also keep bacteria down to a minimum, so that the wound will heal faster.
Dress her in a t-shirt or Recovery Suit®.
If the wound is on the torso, shoulders, or upper front legs, a t-shirt is the ticket if the wound is not too bad and won’t take very long to heal. Most dogs, though, eventually find a way to get inside the t-shirt and get to the wound.
If the wound is somewhere on the torso, a Recovery Suit® may be the answer. These are snug- fitting jackets made of breathable polyester fabric.
Get her an Elizabethan collar.
An Elizabethan collar will protect her from licking, well, all over. It is a collar, shaped like a cone. The small end goes around the neck, and it gets larger as it comes out toward the face. It creates a barrier between her mouth and her body.
Don’t apply any of these too tightly, as a wound must be able to get oxygen to heal.
Put dog boots on her.
You can buy boots for your dog to prevent her from licking wounds on her legs. They are available at pet shops, online, or from your veterinarian. They can be worn over bandages, but if you are going to put them over bandages, make sure and buy a size larger than you normally would.
You want them to fit correctly. They need to stay on, but if they are too large or too small, they will make more sores.
Use anti-lick spray or strips on her.
Anti-lick strips or spray are available at your veterinarian or pet store, and you’d be surprised how well they work on “most” dogs. There are sprays that are made with man-made chemicals and those that are made with natural ingredients. Consider this when you make your purchase.
Why does my dog scratch the wound on her face?
Your dog scratches the wound on his face because it itches and because scratching it releases serotonin. Here is what you can do.
Give her chew toys.
If your dog is distracted easily, chew toys will work wonders. They will occupy your dog until she forgets about her face itching. Those toys that dispense snacks every once in a while are perfect.
Put an Elizabethan collar on her.
The Elizabethan collar is a cone-shaped collar that widens as it extends toward your dog’s nose from her neck. It looks sort of like an upside-down lamp shade. It creates a barrier between her nails and her face.
Put an inflatable collar on her.
Inflatable collars work much like Elizabethan collars. They make it difficult for your dog to turn her head enough to be able to scratch her face.
Dress her in dog boots.
Dog boots will not keep her from swiping across the wound, but they will go a long way toward lessening the effects of those blows. These boots, much like boxing gloves for the feet, don’t let her nails scrape across the skin.
Apply numbing medication.
If you apply numbing medication, she will forget about the wound and go on about her business.
See your veterinarian about prescription medications for pain. They may make her a little loopy and sleepy, but she won’t be thinking about that wound.
Try over-the-counter therapies.
From ibuprofen to CBD chewables, what works for one dog may not work for another. You just have to find what works for your particular dog.
Why does my dog scratch the wound on her shoulder or neck?
Why does your dog scratch a wound found any place on his body? The answer is because it itches and because scratching it causes her body to produce serotonin. She scratches more, so she itches more, and the cycle continues. This is why it is so important to nip the problem in the bud before it turns into an infection that can become serious.