Why Dogs Lick Their (and Your) Wounds

  • 23/01/2017
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Everyone has noticed that when a dog is injured, it has a tendency to lick its wounds. You may wonder why, since people don't lick their own wounds, and in fact, wounds are actually considered gross. So here are some reasons why dogs may lick their ( and your) wounds, and it may be simpler than you think.

A Natural Response

First and foremost, licking wounds might be a natural response. Let's face it, if humans become wounded, they want to bandage, wrap or in some way take care of it. However, dogs cannot help themselves with a bandage, and the only thing they have is their tongue. So if something  gets wounded on their body, the first thing they want to do to soothe the area is to lick it. That would just be a natural response, and since it probably does feel good to have a wound licked, it's a good response too.

Cleaning

Beyond perhaps making a wound feel good, it is also a way for a dog to clean out the area. Humans might take a wet wash cloth to clean the wounded area of dirt and debris, but a dog's wash cloth would be its tongue. It works the same way, removing any dirt from the wound and essentially cleaning it up. Sure, if dogs had opposable thumbs they might use a cloth to do the job with, but since they don't, and have only a wet tongue, it works as a good substitute. 

Anti-Bacterial

Dog saliva actually contains some anti-bacterial substances that prevent against infection. In fact, certain enzymes in a dogs saliva actually help to destroy the cell walls of bacteria, making them very susceptible to a dogs inner bacteria fighting white blood cells. It's almost like having an anti-bacterial salve right on your tongue! So in a very real sense, when a dog is licking their wounds, they are preventing infection to occur. 

They Like It

OK, here is the one that covers every aspect of a dog licking both theirs and your wounds. It may just be because they like it. Let's face it, blood has a sweet and salty taste, and to a dog that might be a serious treat. And really, that may be all that they think it is, especially if they are licking a wound on you.

Certainly, they are not thinking about any antiseptic properties when they are licking your wound, it doesn't feel good to them on their bodies, and it isn't soothing in a physical way. Granted, it may have something to do with instinct, which means they would be prone to licking any wound, but it also might be that it tastes good and they like it.

Of course, from a purely scientific and health related aspect, you should never let your dog lick your wounds. As good as they are at licking their own wounds, you could become infected with the MRSA bacteria, canimorsus, or even such parasites as ringworm. Which means licking their own wounds is a good thing, but make sure they never lick yours. 

About the Author

Mary Nielsen is a passionate dog lover, blogger, and part-time music teacher. She founded MySweetPuppy.net to share her ups and downs of being a pet parent to a bunch of adorable mutts. When she is not playing with them or teaching, you can find her experimenting in the kitchen.

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