Dog Licks Pus – Why Do They Do It?

Written by: Bojana Radulovic
Why do dogs lick their pus? Read on to discover if this kind of behavior is normal for dogs or if you should be worried.

Dogs lick pus or their wounds for a specific reason. This kind of behavior might seem unusual to humans, but for dogs, it is an effective way to deal with some pain-related sensations.

Did you know that dogs actually tend to lick pus or wounds to send the rubbing feeling through nerves?

Why would they do this? Dogs do this when they’re trying through their nerves to block the pain sensations. This way they have triggered the brain to temporarily stop the pain. This is a common reason, but there is another reason as well. Keep on reading.

Why Do Dogs Lick Pus?

Dogs lick pus or their wounds to clean the debris or bacteria. If you are a dog owner already you know that when you are in some kind of pain, or if you have an open wound, your dog will approach you and start licking it.

Is this safe? In general, when you have an open wound, you shouldn’t let your dog lick your open wound as it may get infected by bacteria present in Fido’s mouth.

This isn’t a general rule, but it is a possibility. Licking pus on wounds may easily lead to the growing or overgrowing of other bacteria.

You may hear that dogs’ saliva comes switches some sort of mild antibacterial effects, but it doesn’t mean that it is effective for every type of bacteria that might grow on the wound.

In other words, this means that dog saliva doesn’t help to heal the wound. Now that you know why dogs lick pus, let’s learn more about dogs licking their wounds. First…

Is A Dog’s Mouth Cleaner Than A Human’s Mouth?

Dogs would bite almost anything. They are fast to explore a trash can whenever an opportunity arises.

For dogs, eating an expensive cheese or eating mud is pretty much the same… Not like the same same, but they are not too picky when it comes to flavors.

This is common or dogs, but not something that is seen in humans. Since dogs tend to explore using their noses and mouth, it can force people to ask – is a dog’s mouth clean, or cleaner than a human’s mouth?

This may be a hard pill to swallow, but dogs’ mouth doesn’t need to be dirtier than humans. However, some bacteria can grow in dogs’ mouths.

Did you know that dogs’ mouths also contain bacteria as humans do? This is something that will strongly be affected by the dog’s dental care and your dog’s diet.

The human’s mouth contains the bacteria called Porphyromonas gingivitis, while dogs have Porphyromonas gulae to fight with. This is why if your dog starts licking your wound it is not that harmful, but you should still stop the dog from doing it.

Can You Prevent Dogs From Licking?

Dogs are food-driven beings and they can be trained to perform almost anything.

Did you know that dogs can learn basic commands as of eight weeks of age? This is why you should do your best to be prepared for the training and socialization period.

Training dogs to perform a certain trick is much different than trying to affect something that comes naturally to them.

That being said, can dogs have non-licking experience? Can you prevent dogs from licking?

Before we continue know that dog saliva comes with antibacterial properties that can enormously benefit their wound when dogs lick pus.

Know that when it comes to overall dog health you usually won’t find two identical opinions.

This is why you should do your best to find the right veterinarian for both you and your dog.

Whenever you’re in doubt regarding your dog’s health, nutrition, or even exercise needs, make sure that you talk with your veterinarian first.

In the meantime, you can learn more about how to prevent your dog from licking the wound below.

Know that the options listed below might work for your dog, or not, it can really go both ways. Again, if you have any doubts, make sure that you talk with your veterinarian first.

1. Inflatable Collar

This collar is specially designed to keep a dog’s neck fixed. This collar keeps a dog from turning around and licking body parts.

They are often described as highly effective as they are waterproof. This means that your Fido could wear this collar for a longer period, even when you are not at home, as the wound is well-covered.

Once you get home you can remove the collar and uncover the wound to breathe.

2. Elizabethan Collar

Elizabethan collar is probably one of the most famous collars when it comes to dog care.

This collar is often used after different procedures that should stop your dog from licking his wound.

Also known as the e-collar or cone of shame, the Elizabethan collar is commonly used to treat wound damage and prevent dogs from licking. This same collar is used to prevent bandage removal.

Although using this plastic tool is common, you should focus on finding collars that are not too heavy.

The pet market is rich in many dog products so make sure that you have the Elizabeth collar that will best fit your dog.

If you need extra support in finding the right one, make sure that into consideration the dog’s size, age, and overall mobility.

This collar should be long enough to cover the dog’s nose after placing it on the neck.

Some dogs might enjoy soft plastic cones, but if your Fido is a big breed, such as Greyhound or Doberman, know that they usually have difficulties having cones.

3. What About Boots And Bandages?

If your dog has a wound on his paw, you can use boots or a bandage to prevent him from licking it.

In some cases, a simple sock should be enough to prevent your dog from licking his paw.

What if your dog has a wound in the belly or some other body part? In that case, you can use your old t-shirts to prevent Fido from licking.

You can also use gaffa tape to prevent licking on the wound. They are far easier to peel than other tapes.

Important: Do not put the tape directly on the fur.

Many new products should prevent dogs from licking their wounds, such as anti-lick strips and spray for the dogs that can be directly applied to the wound.

They are ‘gentle’ to the dog’s skin and fur but are usually described as having a lower success rate.

When it comes to treating your dog’s wounds you should follow your vet’s advice.

In other words, you should know that open wound addressing should be done every two to three days.

Very Important: If you notice any strange smell, on the bandage, notice your dog experiencing some sort of pain, or you notice some kind of swelling or soreness, make sure that you contact your veterinarian.

Make sure that you keep an eye on the dog’s movement after any injury and bandage.

Now that you know how to prevent your dog from licking his wounds, let’s learn why dogs do this.

Why Do Dogs Lick Their Wounds?

Dogs know how to help themself. Have you ever noticed how your dog likes eating grass when his stomach is upset? This is because they know what they need in moments of stress.

The same principle applies to licking their wounds. Primarily, dogs lick their wounds to help soothe the pain and discomfort.

As mentioned earlier, licking overstimulates the brain, which in turn numbs the pain. This is similar to when humans rub or hold their wounds to soothe the pain. Since dogs cannot do this they choose to lick their wounds.

For them, their tongues are like humans using their hands. Next to relieving pain, dogs tend to lick their wounds to clean away debris and bacteria.

In most cases, this can help them, while in some cases it can help certain bacteria to overgrow in the wound.

All in all, this means that dog saliva does not help clean or heal the wounds like many commonly believe, so the best way is to prevent dog licking wounds and take your dog to the vet’s office.

What If A Dog Continues Licking His Wound?

Truth is that licking the wound can provide a really small benefit for dogs, but they will lick it excessively. Although this is common for dogs and something that they choose to do you should know that it can actually lead to an infection.

Excessive licking can lead not only to infection, but it can cause mild to strong irritation, as well.

In some cases, excessive licking may lead to strong damage to surrounding tissues and the wound area. This way healing is much harder to be completed as it should, and can potentially increase the size of the wound.

In some cases, excessive licking may lead to wound reopening. Be extra careful if your dog had an operation.

After having surgery, dogs can lick themselves so aggressively that they can easily pull out the sutures and open the incision site.

To know better how to handle dog wounds, you should know what are the most common causes of wound infection. Before we list them, let’s see briefly what wound sepsis in dogs is.

What is wound sepsis? Wound sepsis or just sepsis in dogs is an infection in the body that results in severe inflammation.

If neglected, it can turn to severe sepsis, which eventually may lead to multi-organ failure and in some cases to death. When really severe sepsis overwhelms the body, it commonly results in septic shock.

Can a dog get sepsis from a wound? Simply said, yes.

Dogs can get sepsis from a wound and it usually starts in the GI tract and is commonly followed by the respiratory tract, then dental disease, urinary tract disease, and contaminated wounds.

To know how strong speiss may influence the dog, you should know the signs of sepsis in dogs, which are as listed:

  • Shaking
  • Fever
  • Weakness
  • Confusion
  • Lack of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Now that you know how strong poorly treated infections in dogs may be, let’s see what are the signs of infected wounds in dogs:

  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Heat
  • Pain
  • Pus discharge of white, green or yellow liquid
  • Bleeding easily
  • Fever
  • Lethargy

If you notice any of the listed symptoms, unusual odor or even yeast dermatitis make sure that you contact your veterinarian.

If you notice these symptoms and your dog had no surgery for the wound, you should still contact our veterinarian.

It is crucial to know how your dog looks and behaves when he is healthy and happy, so you can tell when he is in some kind of pain or stress.

How To Heal A Dog Wound Fast

Each dog owner should have a home dog first aid kit with supplies that can help them treat the dog’s wound.

Dog first aid kit should contain:

  • Bandages
  • Antibacterial plasters
  • A tourniquet to stop the blood
  • Set of disinfectants
  • Healing ointments

These items should be enough to treat any kind of wound in your dog.

Don’t forget that the most important thing that you should do when your dog is injured is to stay calm.

If the bleeding is severe, make sure that you place a tourniquet above the wound area as soon as possible.

In the meantime have a family member contact your veterinarian. If the wound is small, but your dog experiences some strange symptoms, to start acting unusual, make sure that you contact your veterinarian.

If the wound is of really small intensity, here is what you should do:

  • Use scissors to cut the hair around the wound
  • Treat the wound with salt water, or appropriate remedy
  • Apply a bandage
  • Take your dog to the vet’s office

The Bottom Line

Dogs usually lick their body parts because they are in some pain. By clicking the hot sport they are actually helping themself to feel better.

Dog’s saliva comes with some antibacterial properties (although they are minimal) that can be effective but not always.

In other words, dogs do lick their body parts when they are in pain. If you notice your dog licking pus make sure that you make a veterinarian appointment.