Stop the Lick! How Anti-Lick Spray Can Help Your Dog’s Wound Heal Faster


It’s common for dogs to lick their wounds or even those of humans and other animals. Dogs likely do this instinctively to clean the wound and remove bacteria. However, excessive licking can actually delay healing and cause harm by irritating the wound and introducing infection.

According to the AKC, a dog’s saliva contains chemicals that can cause tissue damage and introduce bacteria into wounds . Allowing a dog to lick a wound can increase the risk of infection and inflammation and inhibit proper healing. The constant aggravation from licking can also prevent wounds from closing properly.

Anti-lick sprays provide a safe, effective solution to prevent dogs from licking and chewing wounds. By applying an unpleasant tasting spray, dogs can be deterred from licking the affected area while still allowing the wound to heal properly.

Causes of Excessive Licking in Dogs

There are several potential causes for excessive licking in dogs, including:

Allergies: Allergens like pollen, molds, or food can cause itchy skin and paws leading to excessive licking. Allergies can develop or worsen as dogs age.

Anxiety/stress: Psychological disorders like anxiety or stress can manifest as compulsive licking. Changes in routine, loneliness, or loud noises may trigger anxious behaviors. [1]

anxiety or stress can cause dogs to compulsively lick themselves.

Boredom: Lack of mental and physical stimulation can lead to boredom and repetitive licking for some dogs. Providing interactive toys and daily exercise helps prevent boredom licking.

Medical issues: Skin infections, painful joint conditions, and other health problems may cause excessive licking. Dogs may lick areas that itch or hurt.

Risks of Dogs Licking Wounds

Allowing a dog to excessively lick wounds can pose some health risks that dog owners need to be aware of. According to the AKC, excessive licking can lead to irritation and infections A dog’s saliva contains bacteria that can cause infection when introduced into an open wound. Fungal infections are also possible if moisture from saliva accumulates on the wound site.

Constant licking and chewing at a wound can also delay healing and damage new skin tissue forming over the wound. The rough texture of a dog’s tongue can disrupt delicate healing tissue. My Arlington Vet notes this licking can pave the way for hot spots and self-mutilation that leads to more damage The wound essentially becomes caught in a vicious cycle of licking, irritation, and discomfort.

PetMD explains that some dogs lick wounds more intensely than others, which can significantly worsen the wound site Dog owners should monitor the licking behavior and intervene with an anti-lick spray or cone if it appears excessive.

When to Use Anti-Lick Sprays

There are several situations when using an anti-lick spray can be beneficial for dogs:

Open wounds – Dogs have a natural instinct to lick wounds, but this can delay healing and cause infection. Anti-lick sprays create a bitter taste to deter licking of cuts, scrapes, hot spots, or incisions from surgery. They allow the area to heal properly without interference from continual licking. A vet may recommend an anti-lick spray following procedures to prevent the dog from licking the sutures (Source).

anti-lick spray protects open wounds from infection caused by licking.

Hot spots – Hot spots are localized areas of inflamed, infected skin. They are often caused by compulsive licking, chewing, and scratching. Using an anti-lick spray can break this cycle of irritation and allow the hot spot to heal. The spray creates a barrier while relieving discomfort from the lesion (Source).

Post-surgery – Dogs tend to lick excessively at incision sites after surgery, risking infection or reopening of the wound. Anti-lick sprays provide a deterrent and should be applied around the incision area and dog’s trunk or limbs if necessary to prevent licking while healing (Source). The spray allows the incision to heal properly without interference from licking.

How Anti-Lick Sprays Work

Anti-lick sprays work in two main ways to discourage dogs from licking wounds or other objects:

First, they contain bitter taste deterrents that create an unpleasant flavor when sprayed on a dog’s fur or skin near a wound. Common bittering agents include bitrex, denatonium benzoate, and methyl nonyl ketone. These are non-toxic but extremely bitter compounds that deter dogs from licking due to the bad taste.

Second, anti-lick sprays often contain skin-soothing ingredients like aloe vera, vitamin E, oat extract, or hydrocortisone. These can provide relief from itching or irritation that may be causing a dog to lick excessively. The soothing effect helps curb the urge to lick while also benefiting wound healing.

By combining an aversive bitter taste with soothing and healing properties, a good anti-lick spray can break the cycle of excessive licking and allow wounds to heal properly. The spray provides a safe yet unpleasant deterrent each time a dog tries to lick.

Active Ingredients

Anti-lick sprays contain various active ingredients that deter dogs from licking wounds by making the area taste unpleasant. Some of the most common active ingredients include:

Bitter Apple/Bitrex – Extracts from the bitter apple plant or denatonium benzoate create an intensely bitter and unpleasant taste to discourage licking. These ingredients are safe but very distasteful to dogs.[1]

sprays use bitter apple extract to create an unpleasant taste discouraging licking.

Aloe Vera – Aloe vera extract soothes inflammation and irritation on the skin. It provides a calming, healing effect on hot spots, rashes, or open wounds.[2]

Antiseptics – Ingredients like chlorhexidine or tea tree oil act as antiseptics to prevent infection in wounded areas. They have antibacterial and antifungal properties.[3]

The combination of bitter taste deterrents, soothing botanicals, and antiseptics in anti-lick sprays help safely and effectively discourage dogs from excessively licking wounds.

Application Tips

Follow these application tips when using anti-lick spray for your dog’s wounds:

Shake well before use. The ingredients in anti-lick spray can settle, so be sure to thoroughly mix it before applying to your dog.

Apply around, not directly on wound. Spray a barrier around the wound site, but avoid getting anti-lick spray directly in the wound as this could irritate it. Create a perimeter around the wound to discourage licking.

Reapply as needed. Anti-lick sprays are not typically long-lasting, so check the wound site regularly and reapply the spray if your dog starts licking again. Most sprays recommend reapplication every few hours or as needed.

Homemade Anti-Lick Spray Recipes

Here are some recipes for effective yet gentle homemade anti-lick sprays you can make yourself:


A simple vinegar-based spray works well for many dogs. Mix equal parts white vinegar and water in a spray bottle. You can also try apple cider vinegar instead. The vinegar’s sour taste helps deter licking (Source).

a simple homemade spray combines white vinegar and water to deter licking.

Lemon Juice and Aloe

For a spray that moisturizes skin while deterring licking, combine 1 cup lemon juice, 1 cup aloe vera gel, and 1 cup water in a spray bottle. The lemon juice gives it a bitter citrus taste, while the aloe soothes skin (Source).

Essential Oil Blend

Some essential oils like lavender, peppermint, eucalyptus and tea tree naturally deter dogs from licking. Mix 5-10 drops of your chosen oil(s) with 2 cups water in a spray bottle. Avoid getting oils near your dog’s eyes. Test on a small area first in case of skin sensitivity.

When to See a Vet

While anti-lick sprays can help prevent minor licking and irritation, some situations require veterinary attention. You should take your dog to the vet if they have:

  • Severe or deep wounds – Deep wounds like lacerations, bite wounds, abscesses or punctures have a high risk of infection and may require stitches or drains to properly heal.
  • Signs of infection – Redness, swelling, discharge, foul odor and fever can indicate an infected wound that needs antibiotics and proper cleaning.
  • Excessive licking despite spray – If your dog is obsessively licking a spot despite anti-lick spray, there could be an underlying issue like pain, itchiness, anxiety or a foreign object lodged in the skin.

Veterinary wound care is crucial for preventing complications like dehiscence (reopening), necrosis and systemic infection. Don’t hesitate to contact your vet if your dog’s wound appears severe, infected or just isn’t healing properly. They can provide medications, advanced treatments and observation to help wounds heal safely and efficiently.


As we’ve seen, excessive licking of wounds is a common issue for dogs that can lead to infections and delay healing. Anti-lick sprays provide a practical solution to deter licking so wounds can heal properly. They work by providing a bitter taste or physical barrier that makes licking unpleasant for dogs.

When using anti-lick sprays, be sure to follow label directions carefully and reapply as needed. Monitor the wound site closely and see your veterinarian if excessive licking persists or the wound worsens. With proper use of anti-lick sprays and monitoring, most minor to moderate wounds can heal well at home. These sprays give wounds the protective covering they need to support the natural healing process.

In summary, anti-lick sprays are a safe and effective tool to stop wound licking in dogs. They help deter licking and allow wounds to heal, while being far less drastic than approaches like e-collars. Follow directions carefully and see your vet if issues persist. With anti-lick sprays and proper home wound care, you can help promote healing and recovery for your beloved pup.

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