Your dog has a sore spot on her paw. She is licking and licking and licking. It is driving you crazy. You tell her to stop and she does until you turn your back or show that you are no longer paying attention. She goes back to licking and you wonder why she is so obsessed.
The answer is that the dog is doing what she instinctively knows to do. She is cleaning her wound. The tongue’s soft and moist surface makes it an effective wound cleaner. Saliva loosens any debris or scabs that may be lingering on the surface of the wound. The tongue serves the same capacity as the cotton swabs a veterinarian would use to clean a wound.
There is an old myth that implies that dogs have sterile mouths. One of the reasons for this line of thinking is that dog’s wounds tend to heal faster than those of humans. This may be due to the fact that a dog’s saliva does have some antibacterial and antibiotic properties that help promote healing. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean you should allow your puppy to lick his wounds. Consider where his tongue has been in the past hour.
If you dog suddenly begins licking excessively at a spot on his or her body, take time to find out why. Constant licking of a thorn or splinter could drive it deeper into the dog’s body parts, creating a need for medical attention.
Dogs do not limit their wound licking to themselves. Most canines are all too happy to lick your wounds too.
Any wound that is excessively licked by a dog can become infected. Excessive licking can cause what is known as a lick granuloma. This is an area that becomes raw and it is ripe for infection to set in.
A lick granuloma often means a visit to the veterinarian’s office. In some cases, the wound may have to be wrapped or sprayed with a commercial product in order to keep the dog from causing more damage. In cases where infection has set in, antibiotics may be needed to cure the wound.
No matter what you do, some dogs cannot be convinced to stop licking wounds. You can say no and the well-behaved dog will listen. Turn your back and the licking resumes. If you have a dog that orally fixates on a sore, you may have to use a cone-shaped collar to prevent him or her from reaching the wound. The collar is guaranteed to make Rover look pitiful, but resist those sad eyes. Leave the collar on until the dog’s vet tells you it is safe to remove it.
For some dogs, licking is simply a bad habit. Try supplying an array of chew toys to distract the dog. You might give a rawhide treat that will keep the dog happy and busy. Break up the day’s monotony with a walk in the park or a swim in the lake. Do anything you can to stop the habit as it truly can be detrimental to the puppy’s health and well being.