The purpose of this blog is to share general information and is written to the author's best knowledge. It is not intended to be used in place of veterinary advice. For health concerns, please seek proper veterinary care.
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Dogs are not generally good patients. They scratch, lick and chew wounds, causing their owners all sorts of sleepless nights.
The dog may have injured his neck, and as a dutiful owner, you took your dog to consult the vet. The vet may have put stitches in or decided to leave it open.
Vets are known for blithely instructing, “Keep the wound clean and do not let him scratch.” It is easier said than done with a dog.
It is possible to stop a dog from scratching a neck wound by using foam collars, bandages, and dog shoes. Medical management can include painkillers, topical creams, and ice therapy. Distracting your dog with chew toys, games, or walks will tire the dog and reduce the urge to scratch the wound.
Neck wounds on dogs are tricky to manage, and an owner needs to develop innovative ways to stop their dog from scratching the wound.
How Do Dogs Get Neck Wounds?
Neck wounds are a common site for injury on dogs. The most obvious cause is when there is a dog fight, and one dog bites another on the neck. Puncture or bite wounds are usually treated as open wounds, and antibiotics are given.
Dogs are curious and love to stick their heads between fence rails or spaces in wire fences. Sometimes the fence is not in good repair, and the dog rips a big tear into their necks. The vet may decide to stitch it or opt to leave it open depending on the extent of the injury.
The dreaded ” hot spot ” or moist dermatitis is a particularly frustrating and painful lesion to stop a dog scratching. This condition is very itchy and painful.
Sticks and twigs can poke holes in a dog. Then there are the mysterious ways a dog can injure themselves without any known cause – leaving the owner totally baffled about how the injury occurred.
No matter the cause, anytime a dog scratches a wound, it is not helpful for healing and frustrates the owners.
Why Is It Bad for a Dog to Scratch a Neck Wound?
Dogs use their hind legs and feet to scratch neck wounds. Unfortunately, dogs’ nails carry a lot of dirt and bacteria. When they scratch wounds, the germs are transferred into the injury. The bacteria grow and an infection results.
A dog that is scratching a neck wound can cause more damage in the following ways:
- The nails can hook in stitches and tear them out.
- The nails can hook in the wound and tear the lesion, making it bigger.
- Dog’s nails are hard and sharp, so they can easily bruise the tissue. This compromises the blood supply to the wound, which slows the healing process.
- Constant scratching causes inflammation, resulting in serum oozing from the injury, causing infection and a non-healing wound.
Why Does a Dog’s Neck Wound Itch?
The skin has nerve endings in it that detect pain and itchiness is a modified pain sensation. The nerve fibers that respond to itchiness are found in the boundary of the dermis and epidermis. Any time the skin is compromised or has disturbed nerve responses, itching may result.
To promote healing, the dog’s body releases histamines which stimulate new cell growth. An unfortunate side effect of histamines is that they trigger nerve impulses that cause an itch.
As a wound heals, new collagen is laid down in the skin, causing it to expand. This expansion helps to seal the wound and dry out the scab. The expansion and drying of the scab also cause the sore to itch.
Veterinarians often shave around a wound to prevent hair from entering the wound and contaminating it. When hair begins to regrow, it itches, and the irritation causes the dog to scratch.
As you can see, wound healing is an itchy process, and it is not any surprise that your dog will want to scratch a wound on its neck. Veterinarians and doctors pay little attention to the itch sensation, but it actually can be a problem as it can drive dogs and people crazy.
Unfortunately, dogs do not understand that itching is temporary, and they should avoid scratching. Even people are sometimes unable to stand the urge to scratch.
How Do You Stop a Dog Scratching a Neck Wound?
In the last two decades, the standard method of stopping a dog from scratching and licking a wound is to fit an Elizabethan or E-collar. The problem is that this method does not work well for trauma on the neck as the collar fits around the neck and will irritate and damage a neck wound.
1 – Use a Bandage
Dogs are not always easy to bandage, but thankfully, a dog’s neck is an accessible area to bandage. If the veterinarian recommends that the wound receive open air, use a crepe bandage which allows the lesion to have some exposure to the atmosphere.
If the wound is severe or the dog is scratching with a great deal of force, use soft padding that is put on before a plaster cast. If you do not have access to this padding, use a long section of cotton wool to wrap around the dog’s neck.
Cover the soft, padded material with crape or other bandages. The best way of securing the dressing is to apply a section or adhesive bandage over the underlying layers. This can be a small strip to secure the other bandages or use an entire layer of adhesive tape.
It is important to remember that if the adhesive bandage becomes wet, it will shrink as it dries. The shrinking can cause problems as it cuts off blood supply to the area.
2 – Try a Thick Foam Collar
There are several thick foam collars on the market to prevent a dog from scratching a wound. They are described by different terms such as neck protector, recovery collar, or veterinary collar. A search on the internet will show you multiple types of collars that are available.
Although this collar fits on the neck like an E-collar, it is made from soft fabric or foam and will not irritate the wound. The collar is usually easy to put on or take off, which makes it ideal for:
- Wound dressing
- Leaving the sore open to the air for a while
- Giving the dog a short supervised break if it finds the collar distressing
The foam or fabric collar is usually attached using Velcro straps or nylon straps that clip together. Some collars are connected to a spandex T-shirt that fits over the dog’s shoulders.
3 – Dog Shoes Might Help
Dog shoes are sold in various designs and fabrics and can be ordered online or found at pet shops. Hind feet dogs’ shoes made from soft material can be useful in preventing damage to the neck wound if the dog scratches it.
Some dogs might be distracted by wearing the shoes and forget to scratch their wound, but others might continue scratching. In this case, the dog’s nails will be covered by fabric and limit the damage they cause to the injury.
Dogs seldom use their front feet to scratch a neck wound, so it would generally only be necessary to put shoes on the dog’s hind feet. If the dog is a particularly good contortionist, you may need to buy front feet shoes as well.
Some dogs are distressed by wearing shoes, which can add to their stress levels if they are already struggling because of the neck wound. Be aware of this, and if you have a sensitive dog, it might be best to avoid using the dog shoes.
4 – Painkillers Can Also Help
As mentioned before, itchiness is registered by the same nerves that record pain. Using painkillers can therefore help relieve itchiness sometimes. There are numerous painkillers for dogs, and it would be best to consult with your veterinarian to prescribe one that is best for your dog.
Sometimes veterinarians may be dismissive of the problem of wound scratching. You need to be firm and insist on some help.
5 -Topical Creams Can Work
Topical creams can be used to desensitize the wound area and prevent the dog from scratching it. The nature of the trauma will influence the cream chosen as it must not be detrimental to wound healing.
Cortisone or steroidal creams are helpful in cases where the damage has been caused by dermatitis or eczema. They should not be used on all wounds as they can thin the skin and delay healing.
Anesthetic creams or antihistamine creams can also be used to reduce the urge to scratch. They can be mixed with antibiotic or antiseptic creams if the wound is infected or needs antimicrobial treatment.
There may be a lot of swelling around a wound initially. As the swelling goes down, the skin begins to peel and flake, resulting in itchiness. Moisturizing creams are helpful to reduce dryness and ease the process of skin peeling.
Moisturizing creams also assist with dry scabs that are beginning to fall off. They soften the surrounding area and the scab and lessen the itch.
If you have a dog with chronic allergies, be cautious about what cream you use, as some may exacerbate the itch and increase the dog’s scratching.
6 – Try Ice Therapy
Ice therapy involves holding an ice pack onto the wound to ease the inflammation and cool the area down. The process of cooling calms the nerve endings and lessens itching.
It is important to remember that the ice pack should only be applied for ten minutes at a time. If the ice pack remains on the injury for too long, the blood supply to the area will be compromised, and the lesion will not heal.
If there is still a lot of inflammation causing itching, you can put a cold pack on for ten minutes, followed by a hot pack for ten minutes. Repeat this process two or three times. This form of therapy can be used up to three times a day if you have the time.
7 – Use Distraction Techniques
We often instinctively use distraction techniques to help us cope with pain or distress. Retail therapy, a cup of tea, or a sucker for a child that has fallen are all actions we routinely use to provide distraction and comfort. Dogs are not that different from us.
Providing a dog with a safe chew toy or large meaty bone is a good distraction from the irritation of a healing sore. The more novel the treat, the more the dog will be distracted.
Ensuring the chew toys or meaty bones are safe for the dog is crucial as you do not need to add another vet bill.
Playing fetch or any other favorite game will help distract your dog and tire them out so that they are less inclined to scratch the neck wound. If the injury is deep and involves the neck muscles be cautious about playing tug games with your dog as it may compromise the wound integrity.
8 – Take Your Dog on a Walk
Walking a dog is always good for their mental health. If your dog is continually scratching a neck wound, a long walk will tire it out, take its attention off the itch and help it relax if there is any stress.
Walking a dog with a neck wound requires a bit of innovation, and you may need to alter the equipment you use when walking your dog. A collar will not be ideal if it scrapes and irritates the wound, and this is usually the case when the wound is lower at the neck-body junction.
A harness will remove all contact with the neck and can be useful when walking a dog that has a neck wound. Some power breeds will use a harness to pull against you if they are not used to it, so be aware of this potential problem.
A Halti collar can be used if the wound is low down on the neck and you do not have enough control of your dog using a harness.
There are several methods to help reduce itching and stop a dog from scratching a neck wound. Although it is a challenging task, the comforting aspect is that it is only for a short time, and diligent attention to the scratching problem will lessen the wound healing time.