Dogs are curious creatures who often explore the world with their nose to the ground. Unfortunately, exploring the world in this position leads to many cuts and scrapes on the face. Your dog may have just come home from the vet with a fresh wound on its face. It looks like the vet did a great job cleaning up the wound, but the problem is your dog won’t stop scratching at it.
You can say “no” and yell at them all you want, but when dogs are uncomfortable, they’ll often lick the area that’s causing discomfort. Since they can’t lick their own face, they’ll do the next best thing…scratch at it.
Our guide below will go into detail on why your dog is scratching and then provide some helpful tips to stop it from happening. The quicker you can get your dog to stop scratching the wound on their face, the quicker it will heal.
Why Do Dogs Scratch Wounds On Their Face?
Since scratching a wound hurts, you might be wondering why a dog would intentionally put themselves through pain by scratching the wound on their face.
The answer is actually simple…you know how when you have a deep cut on your body, and when it begins to heal, it itches something awful? Well, the same thing happens to your dog, but it doesn’t understand what is happening. Your pet wants to paw and scratch because he doesn’t know that it is making things worse.
Remember when you were little, before you knew better, and would pick at your scabs? It’s the same thing. As a responsible dog owner, you must do what is best for your dog, even if it makes him slightly uncomfortable for a while or a little goofy looking.
Keep reading below, and you will find our solutions to keep your dog from hurting itself even more.
Using Devices to Stop The Face Scratching
There are a few devices and “tricks” you can use to get your dog to stop scratching his face. You don’t need to use all of them, just one should do the trick. For example, if you go with the cone, you don’t need to use the boots. If you use the boots, you won’t need to use the cone.
Select one of the methods and see how well it works for your dog.
We always recommend starting with chew toys before using the other methods below. For dogs that are easily distracted, it works wonders. Giving your dog a chew toy can occupy them just long enough for them to forget about their itchy face. Your dog doesn’t have a long attention span, so giving your dog a chew toy full of something like peanut butter can go a long way from getting it to stop scratching.
You can also use a Kong toy. These are the toys you place treats inside, and your dog has to work to get the treats out. Nothing distracts a dog more than treats do!
Cone of Shame
Pet cones, or Elizabethan Collars named after the fashion from ladies’ dresses in the old days, are a tried and true solution to keeping your dog from scratching its face.
I’m sure you know what these are, but if not, just think of every comedy involving a dog and remember the scene where the dog had what looked like a lampshade over its head? That’s a pet cone…AKA, the dreaded “Cone of Shame.”
When properly used, it is seated along your pet’s neck and extends beyond their face making it impossible for them to scratch their face. This device has been used by veterinarians for years on dogs to help them heal after surgeries.
We like to avoid them when possible because they are incredibly uncomfortable for dogs. Still, in certain situations, there’s no way to avoid it.
These cost more money than cones, but they serve a very similar purpose. Putting an inflatable collar on your dog will make it difficult for them to turn their head enough to scratch at it. Depending on where the wound is on the face, the inflatable collar may or may not work.
Dog boots are kind of like boxing gloves you put on your dog’s paws. When properly secured around the bottom of the legs, these devices will “soften” the blow, if you will, much like boxers gloves.
When they try to scratch at their wounded face, they will not be able to apply force to the area and will not worsen the injury. They will also lose interest after a while and go on to nap, eat, or play.
The biggest downside to this method is that it will not keep your dog from going and rubbing against a table or corner, so you must keep an eye on them.
The quicker your dog’s wound is healed, the sooner you can stop worrying about them hurting themselves further. Some of these wound care products even have a natural numbing effect. If you can numb the wound, your dog will forget it’s even there.
Be sure to follow your veterinarian’s recommendations on the healing and treatment of the wound. If it’s not properly treated, an infection can set in, making the itching even worse. To prevent infection, be sure to follow your vet’s antibacterial schedule and use a proper healing ointment as directed.
Your veterinarian can prescribe medication to help your dog cope during this painful time. Most of the medications will make your dog groggy, but at least they won’t be itching their wound.
Prescription medication can be dangerous, so only use them under the guidance of a trained professional. Just because your neighbor has some leftover meds from their dog’s surgery doesn’t mean you should feed them to your dog.
There is a myriad of over the counter chewables you can try these days. From CBD based to those using other all-natural remedies such as essential oils. While these are in their infancy, they are considered safe by most veterinarians and are worth a shot if you do not want to go the full-on prescription route.
Before giving your dog NSAIDs that were made for humans, it’s best to discuss it with your vet to get the proper dosage. NSAIDs can help keep a dog from scratching at their wound by relieving the pain of the wound. Ibuprofen is our NSAID of choice, but again, it’s vital to talk to a vet before going down this route.
Both positive and negative reinforcement can be used to get your dog to stop scratching at their wounds. Still, we only recommend negative when absolutely necessary. Most people just straight to negative when it isn’t actually needed.
If your dog is feeling up to it, and at your veterinarian’s advice, of course, play can be a great way to keep your dog from itching its face. Keeping your dog occupied will surely tire your dog out, and it will want to sleep more. A sleeping dog is less likely to scratch that bothersome itch!
Another step in the positive reinforcement road requires constant vigilance. When your dog begins to scratch its face, get his attention calmly by petting him or calling his name. When he breaks the behavior of scratching, reward your dog with a small treat.
Negative reinforcement should be used as a last resort when training an animal. It can cause undue stress and anxiety, which will actually make the itching even worse. Only use negative reinforcement under the guidance of a certified trainer.
When your dog begins to scratch at the wound, you should use a displeasing voice. You can say pretty much anything like, “No!” or “Don’t do that!” The tonality is what your dog will pick up on.
Once they realize they get this negative response from you each time they scratch, they will start to equate scratching their face to you being upset. Your dog wants to please you and will do its best to do so, even denying its natural urge to scratch.
No matter how your dog got wounded in the face, we all know they shouldn’t be scratching at it. Too bad your dog doesn’t know that, right? That’s why they are relying on you to make sure that they don’t scratch their wound and make things worse. Keep in touch with your veterinarian on the actions of your dog and make sure to keep appointments. The vet will be able to guide you further down this road and tell you when it’s safe for your animal to go ahead and scratch their face again. Good luck!
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