When your dog is injured, or they’ve just had surgery, there’s a good chance they may lick their wound in an attempt to reduce pain or irritation. They may also be trying to clear any discharge from the wound.
To make sure that your dog’s wound completely heals, you have to limit your dog’s access or ability to lick the wound. While the conventional tool to do this is the Elizabethan Collar (“e-collar” or “cone”), there are alternatives such as dog boots, bandages, and anti-lick sprays that can provide the same result.
Let’s look at the alternatives to the Elizabethan collar to stop a dog from licking a wound or injury so your dog doesn’t have to wear the dreaded cone.
Why Not Use an Elizabethan Collar to Stop a Dog from Licking a Wound
When trying to heal a dog’s wound such as a hot spot or post-surgery incision, minor licking may not always be an issue (and yes, dog saliva actually does have some infection-preventing properties), but excessive licking can delay the healing, reopen the wound, dislodge the stitches, and cause infection.
Also, excessive licking can make it much more difficult to apply cream or gel to the wound and can even kill the skin tissue around the incision area.
Elizabethan collars, also known as the “cone of shame”, are plastic lampshade-shaped cones that extend from the dog’s neck to several inches beyond their face. This restricts them from being able to lick any area of their body. In this respect, e-collars are very effective towards accomplishing this goal.
So why not just use an e-collar?
E-collars are often stiff and bulky, so they make it hard for your dog to be able to move around. They are often a bit too big, and can scare your dog as it limits their range of vision. This can be very disconcerting for a dog, especially one who is not used to wearing the cone.
As a result, a lot of dogs who wear e-collars will act down and may even appear to be depressed. Some dogs will even refuse to eat and drink. Many dogs simply look like they are miserable when wearing an e-collar.
So dog owners often want an alternative to the cone to spare their dog this misery. Here are some options.
Alternatives to E-Collars for Keeping a Dog from Licking a Wound
Bandages are a great way of preventing your dog from being able to access their wounds, and they also provide a barrier to stop the wound from becoming infected by dirt and debris. Bandages provide a hygienic wound environment which will promote fast healing.
However, there is a slight drawback when it comes to using them. Wounds require a flow of oxygen in order to heal. So, when you apply a bandage, you need to make sure it’s placed firmly, but not too tight, as this will restrict the flow of air and can limit your dog’s movement.
Also, some vets may not want the wound to be bandaged at all. In this case, you’ll have to explore other options.
To apply a bandage properly, make sure you use even pressure, and that there are no wrinkles in the bandage.
Another issue to consider is that dogs often love to chew things, especially if there’s something on their body that’s bothering them and they want to get rid of it. Some dogs may chew through their bandages in order to access their wounds.
If your dog is an avid chewer, then it’s worth considering some of the other cone alternatives on this list. If you do, however, choose to use a bandage to cover your dog’s wound, then you need to change the bandage every 2-3 days or as directed by your vet.
It’s also important that you follow your vet’s advice, and call them immediately if you notice any soreness, swelling or foul smell — signs of infection.
Dog Boots to Keep Dog From Licking Wounds on Paws
If your dog has any wounds on their legs or paws, then boots can be an excellent option, as they’re easy to take on and off. You can either choose to use the boots on their own, or put them over a bandage.
If you do decide to use both, make sure the boots are one size bigger, otherwise they will be too tight for your dog. You also need to consider if your dog is a fan of boots or not. If they aren’t they’ll probably try and rip the boots off their feet, and will defeat the purpose of using them.
Fortunately, there are other benefits and applications for dog boots, so you may end up getting lots more use out of them rather than a one-time use.
Surgical Recovery Suit
Instead of using a cone to restrict your dog’s head movement, you can prevent licking by covering the wound. One of the best ways in which you can cover a dog’s wound – especially one which is located on their body – is to use a surgical recovery suit.
These suits are made from a soft fabric and have been designed to cover your dog’s wound in a way which prevents them from being able to excessively lick at the wound. The best way to describe these suits is that they are kind of like a baby’s sleepsuit for dogs.
These recovery suits come in a variety of styles, sizes and colors, so you can choose the one which suits your dog the best. Some of these suits even come with snappers or poppers so that they can be easily opened whenever your dog needs to relieve themself.
T-Shirts / Boxers / Baby Onesies
If you are unable to afford or can’t access a surgical recovery suit, you can always use an old t-shirt, or a pair of men’s boxers instead.
If your dog’s wound is located near the back legs, rear, tail or genital area, you can cover the wound using men’s boxers. For dogs with long tails, you may have to cut a hole in the boxers for it. Similarly, if the wound is located on the chest or abdominal area, you can use a t-shirt to offer protection. Trim the arms with scissors if they hang too low and cause the dog to trip.
For smaller dog breeds, a baby onesie might actually come in handy. Ideally, baby onesies which are sized between 12-24 months are the best option, but you also want to make sure the onesie sits flat against your dog’s fur.
Just be weary that you’ll have to assist your dog with removing the onesie whenever they need to relieve themselves.
These items may be able to prevent your dog from being able to touch their wound, but some dogs are still able to scratch through fabrics.
Perhaps think about using one of these items when your dog has a minor injury, or you want to prevent them from being able to lick any topical locations or gels you may have applied to their wound.
Anti-Lick Sprays or Strips
Anti-lick sprays are made using terrible and bitter flavors which are supposed to discourage your dog from licking. These products are typically made from natural ingredients as these tend not to have any side effects, and rarely trigger allergic reactions.
It’s worth noting that anti-licking sprays are not always effective, as some dogs will continue to lick their wounds regardless of how bitter the spray tastes. It’s also important that you always discuss using a spray on your dog’s wound with a vet, as some products can cause serious irritation and can affect the healing process.
Itch Relief Products
In most cases, dogs will attempt to lick their wounds because it is itchy and irritable. You can help your dog out by using products that will relieve the itching. These products can be medical shampoos, Benadryl or even steroids.
Please remember to consult your vet before giving your dog any medicated products.
Distracting Your Dog From Their Wound
In some cases, you will be able to distract your dog from licking their wound by redirecting their attention. For example, you can give them something like a chew toy to distract their tongue and keep them busy.
Some other distractions include giving them chilled food or toys such as Kongs which you can stuff with peanut butter and other goodies, serving them ice cubes in their meal, and using a slow dog feeding bowl. These tactics are designed to keep your dog entertained, and to keep their mouths focused on something else for a while.
Exercise / Adventure
Another common reason why dogs lick their wounds is because they are bored. To keep your dog entertained, try taking them for a walk, or even a run (if they’re not too injured to do so). You can also play games with them, like fetch or tug of war, as it will keep them distracted.
It’s worth noting that these methods are just suggestions, and in some cases, they may not be effective in preventing your dog from licking their wounds. Always monitor your dog when you first employ a method so you can see if it works. You don’t want to risk your dog re-opening a wound.
If you are unable to get them to stop, contact your vet, as they may be able to provide you with some other creative ways to distract your dog. They may even prescribe medication which should curb your dog’s behavior if needed.
And if you can’t figure out how to stop a dog from licking a wound without a collar, you can always use an elizabethan collar and focus your efforts on making it more comfortable for the dog. Sometimes it’s just a matter of waiting out their initial unhappiness until they grow used to wearing it.