What does it mean when your dog licks your wounds?

A few weeks ago, I had a scratch on my leg, and it bled a little. That afternoon, Callie came into my office and licked my wound. I let her do her thing for a few minutes, but I wasn’t sure I understood exactly what she thought she was doing. “Was she just liking the taste of blood? Or did she think she was treating my injury?” So I did a little unscientific research.

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Dogs do lick their young to cure their wounds. Dogs can be very caring about their puppies and their senior citizens. The African Wild Dog (a species) licks the wounds of its old, sick or injured pack members.

Here’s an excerpt from an interesting article from www.godsdirectcontact.org:

“When dogs lick their loved ones it is their way of showing care and affection, as when a mother dog lovingly licks her pups or when dogs lick their masters. However, some people dislike being licked by dogs and believe incorrectly that canine saliva is unhygienic. On the contrary, since it contains antibacterial substances, the saliva of a healthy dog is harmless and actually has healing properties. In fact, the science magazine Alaska Science ForumE. coli and Streptococcus canes. recently published an article entitled “Dog Saliva: the Next Wonder Drug?” which discusses a 1990 experiment by University of California researchers who found that dog saliva killed the harmful bacteria.”

And here, from the icWales website, is an article about a dog who helped its owner recover from Sudek’s Atrophy by licking his leg for extended periods of time.

And here’s an interesting excerpt from www.Dolittler.com:

“Didn’t you know Caesar employed a small army of trained, wound-licking dogs to handle his soldiers’ injuries? Sure, getting blood, guts, dirt and bacteria off a gaping wound is a good thing whether it’s a tongue or a gauze sponge. The latter’s better, but why quibble over details?”

So it seems that dogs do have an urge to help cure the wounds of their own, as well as their human masters. And, apparently, their saliva does contain some antibacterial substances which helps heal wounds.

Last night, when I returned from vacation, I had another small scratch on my leg. I had covered it up with a bandage, but I hadn’t really cleaned it like I should have. Having completed my research project, I decided to pull off the bandage and let Callie lick away. Which she did. Some people might think this is kind of gross, but Callie did a very thorough job, and both of my Callie-cured wounds are healing beautifully.

In case you’re thinking, “Well, dogs just like the taste of blood,” I did this little unscientific experiment. I let Callie lick a small spot of blood on my shorts; she took a quick stab at it and quickly lost interest. Which made me think she really does have a genuine interest in treating my wounds.

Next time you have a little scratch, consider the possibility that your dog might take great pleasure in playing doctor and helping to heal your wound. You’ll still want to use conventional methods to avoid an infection, but it seems that your dog’s saliva will at least help a little.

7 Responses to “What does it mean when your dog licks your wounds?”

  1. Pinnie says:

    I loved all the blogs I read today. Very insightful and entertaining. I recommend them to everyone.

  2. Rob says:

    I’ve had an excruciating infected ingrown toenail for the past three years, and each day, my best friend, Ginger has licked it. Ive tried cutting it properly, disintecting it and even performing minor surgery on myself. All have ended in emormous amounts of pain – except my dog licking it. Dogs are nothing short of natural war medics, and have an amazingly soothing, gentle way of cleaning your wounds. My toe still hurts, but it still feels amazing when she tries to help.

  3. mydoggiesays says:

    I’m sure it would be a mistake to rely exclusively on your dog to treat wounds. Modern science has much better and safer solutions, but there certainly can be some benefits. Thanks, Rob.

  4. Julia says:

    I have a pomeranian. He is my best friend and i had a blister on my heel and everytime i would sit down to play on computer or watch tv and even go to bed, he would sense there was a problem and would come over and start trying to lick the sore spot. it was still covered with the skin and all and he took the skin right off and now everywhere i walk he follows. he will not leave it alone. I know he is trying to heal it. I praise him for that, i just wonder how long will my dog follow me around the house and even outside the house trying to lick my wound?? Im sure it cant be healthy or im sure his tongue gets tired but he will spend more than an hour trying to lick the wound is this normal??

  5. mydoggiesays says:

    Seems excessive to me, but I’m not a doc nor a vet. Sounds like time to discourage your pomeranian and have a doc take care of it. Or wear some socks. :-)

  6. Luigi Fulk says:

    thanks for the info my dog has had what I believe to be kennel cough for a few days, we were about to go to the vet before I decided to check online

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