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Why Do Dogs Lick Their Own Wounds? The Interesting Answer

Written by: Nicole Cosgrove

Last Updated on May 29, 2024 by Dogster Team

dog licks a dermatological wound

Why Do Dogs Lick Their Own Wounds? The Interesting Answer

If your dog has ever had an injury, you’ve likely seen them try to lick their wound. But why does just about every dog try to lick their wounds, and should you let them do it?

We’ll dive into everything you need to know about why dogs lick their wounds. Since dogs don’t have hands to treat their injury, they use their tongues, but you really shouldn’t let them do it. It might be a bit frustrating to try and get them to stop, but we’ve also highlighted a few different ways you can get them to stop licking their wounds for you here!

Why Do Dogs Lick Their Own Wounds?

When it comes to dogs licking their wounds, it all comes down to instincts and the options dogs have available to them. Dogs don’t have hands like us that they can use to treat their injuries, so their next best option is their tongues.

When a dog licks their wounds, it does a few things for them. First, it provides some relief from pain and discomfort. Just like how it helps when you rub or hold a wounded area on your body, the same is true for your dog.

Moreover, dog saliva has slight antibacterial properties against specific types of bacteria. It’s not the most effective option out there, but before dogs had access to modern medicine, it was the only option they had.

Licking their wounds is the only way they have to treat themselves, and they’re going to do whatever they can to try and help themselves, even if it ends up doing more harm than good in the end.

close up dog licking wound
Image By: Wichaiwish, Shutterstock

Should You Let Your Dog Lick Their Wounds?

With some anti-infection properties, it might seem like it’s not a bad idea to let your pup lick their wounds. While this might seem like a good idea, it’s not. While dog saliva does have some antibacterial properties, it can still cause an infection.

Not only that, but a dog licking their wound excessively can lead to further irritation, hot spots, and even more damage to the area. Licking was better than nothing before dogs had access to medicine through their owners, but since you can give them the medicine they need, it’s best to keep them from licking their wounds.

How to Keep Your Dog From Licking Wounds

Because your dog licking their wounds can cause more harm than good, it’s best to keep them from licking injured areas. But if your dog does have an injury they keep trying to lick, what can you do about it?

We’ve highlighted three different ways you can try to keep your dog from licking their wounds for you here:

1. Cones & Inflatable Collars

a golden retriever dog wearing a cone of shame
Image By: Kyla Metzker, Shutterstock

This is the classic way to keep your dog from licking a wounded area, and it’s the most popular option for a reason. Both cones and collars are extremely effective at keeping your dog from licking a wounded area no matter where it’s at, but most dogs don’t like the way they feel.

They make softer cones compared to the hard plastic ones of the past, and many dogs find these more comfortable. Not only that, but the inflatable collars are typically far more comfortable for your dog, but most dogs still don’t like them.


2. Dog Clothing

Dog wearing red christmas sweater
Image By: Ryan Seth Nau, Shutterstock

This is an option that might work, depending on the location and type of injury. If your dog has an injury on their stomach, a dog shirt might be all you need to keep them from licking it. Just keep in mind that many dogs will still try to get to an injury even if they’re wearing some clothing over it.

But for smaller injuries and more compliant dogs, dog clothing might be more comfortable than a cone or inflatable collar.


3. Dressings

veterinarian dressing the wound on a dog with gauze
Image By: BetterPhoto, Shutterstock

No matter where your dog has an injury, you can always try putting a dressing over it to keep your dog from licking it. Just like dog clothing, many dogs will still try to get under the dressing to get to the injury, but for smaller injuries and dogs that aren’t quite as persistent, it might be a better option than a cone or inflatable collar.

Final Thoughts

Now that you know a little bit more about why a dog licks their own wounds, what it can do, and ways you can keep them from doing it, the next time your dog gets an injury you can have a better idea of what to expect and what you can do about it.

It might be a natural instinct for your dog, but when you’re trying to do what’s best for them, you need to keep their tongues away from their injuries!

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Featured Image Credit: fetrinka, Shutterstock

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