Have you noticed that if you have a cut or scrape, your pup is right there, ready to lick it? While part of you may be wondering whether it is dangerous to saturate your cut in dog saliva, you also may be wondering why your dog is engaging in this behavior in the first place. Do they just like the salty taste of your skin, or are they trying to heal you in the same way they’d heal themselves?
Dog Saliva is not healing, and you should not let your dog lick your wounds. If you are wounded, you should wash the wound, apply antibiotic ointment, dry the wound, and bandage the area. If you are in a medical emergency, stop reading this and call 911 or go to an emergency room.
This article examines why your dog may be licking your wounds and whether they can genuinely sense our physical pain.
(Acme Canine is not medical or veterinary advice, and you should seek out the advice of a doctor for medical issues.)
An animal’s first instinct when they get hurt is to lick their wound to soothe it. This is because the healing capabilities in canine saliva can help cleanse and heal the area. As their owner and an essential part of their pack, your furry friend wants to take responsibility for your wounds by healing you in the only way they know.
Dogs lick a human wound for the same reason they lick your face, feet, or hands, and that is to express some kind of emotion. Whether it’s affection, separation anxiety, or simply the desire to be close to you, your pup may just lick wounds to get attention.
Is Dog Saliva Healing?
Some people believe that dogs saliva can heal wounds. This is a belief that dates all the way back to Egyptian times. Interestingly enough, the ancient Egyptians even had temples devoted to dogs, where pups would be encouraged to lick human wounds to clean out bacteria and prevent further illness.
However, in today’s era of anti-biotics and the germ theory of the disease, we know dog’s mouths are full of bacteria, and exactly the opposite of what you’d want in a wound on your human body. Dog Saliva is not healing, and you should not let your dog lick your wounds. If you are in a medical emergency, stop reading this and call 911 or go to an emergency room.
Now that you know why your dog is engaging in this behavior and that dog saliva has the potential to be healing, the question remains – is it safe to let your furry friend do their best to heal your wounds? Sadly, the answer is no. Dogs shouldn’t even be licking their wounds, let alone yours.
While you’ve probably heard that a dog’s mouth is just as clean as your own, they are exposed to different types of bacteria that should not be introduced into our bodies through our blood streams. Pasteurella is a bacteria commonly found in the mouths of mammals and can cause a severe infection if introduced into a wound.
Of course, there is also the fact that dogs lick their rear ends and may be putting other dangerous bacteria into their mouths that you are not aware of. While certain bacteria may not affect your dog’s digestive system, common bacterial diseases like salmonella and E. coli, as well as worms and parasites, can pose a serious hazard to humans.
If your pup doesn’t stop licking your wounds, you must take care of them by keeping them covered up. Minor injuries should be cleaned and covered with a bandage, and significant wounds should immediately receive medical attention.
Once your wound is cleaned, cared for, and covered up, your dog likely won’t be interested in attempting to lick it anymore, as they will no longer be able to smell the fresh scent of an open wound.
Some training techniques may be necessary if your dog is incredibly persistent and will not leave a covered-up wound alone. Teaching your dog the “all done” command may be helpful.
To teach your dog this training technique, you must first put them on a leash. Allow your dog to show interest in an activity or an item they find particularly appealing, and then announce, “all done!” and gently pull them away by the leash.
Reward them with a treat once they have turned their attention back to you and practice these steps daily. Then, the next time your pup attempts to lick your wound, announce “all done!” and reward them with a treat.
Should I Let My Dog Lick Their Own Wounds?
While the bad outweighs the good in allowing your dog to lick your wounds, what about a dog licking its own wounds? You’ve probably noticed that if your dog is obsessively licking their injury that it’s not getting any better. Although a dog’s saliva does contain wound healing properties discussed previously, the action of wound licking can cause severe irritation to your dogs wound.
Licking and chewing can reopen wounds and cause irritation, infections, hot spots, and permanent damage. This is especially true if a dog has stitches due to surgery or injury, as they constantly try to lick and pull them out. This is why the infamous Elizabethan collar or dog cone was introduced to impede your pup’s attempt at “healing.” Although this collar may be inconvenient to your dog and interfere with their mobility a certain amount, it can be necessary to prevent your dog from injuring themselves further.
At the end of the day, licking your cuts is a sweet attempt from your furry best friend to heal their owner. However, the negatives of letting your pup lick your wounds far outweigh the positives. Keep your wounds covered up to avoid potential health risks, and ensure you do not let your dog lick their own wounds to prevent further injury.
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