Do dogs heal themselves by licking?

So while licking will slightly help decrease these two types of bacteria, there are many other bacteria that can start to overgrow in the wound. Unfortunately, this means that dog saliva ultimately does not help clean or heal the wounds, so it’s best to prevent dogs from licking their wounds.

If your dog has ever required surgery, your veterinarian most likely gave you an Elizabethan collar. The most common colloquial term for an Elizabethan collar is the “cone of shame.” How do dogs heal themselves and what can we do to help them when they are injured? Dogs receive this collar because the only thing they know to do is lick a wound, but is this the best course of action?

A dog will naturally lick or rub a wound to make it better. You may notice your dog scratching at their face if they have an injury there. They’ll probably be licking at it if their paw or side is hurt. Dogs lick their wounds so frequently that earlier cultures actually believed the saliva contained healing properties. Today, we understand that there are a lot more effective ways to treat wounds than using saliva.

Even research into a dog’s innate capacity to heal wounds discovered that saliva has a mild bactericidal effect. However, it’s crucial to keep in mind that a dog’s saliva is only marginally bactericidal. Most importantly, a dog will dislodge any dirt that may have gotten into their wound by licking it.

Licking Harms More Than It Helps

Although licking may provide some protection against specific bacteria, allowing your dog to lick wounds has significant risks. Excessive licking can irritate skin, resulting in hot spots, infections, and the possibility of self-mutilation.

Licking and chewing can also slow healing by reopening wounds. Surgery sites are especially dangerous for dogs to lick. Licking can cause sutures to fall out and the wound to reopen, requiring a second visit to the vet. Reopened surgical wound closure is frequently more difficult than initial clean wound closure. This is why vets give Elizabethan collars to their canine patients to wear at home while sutures are in place or until the wound is fully healed (i e. 10-14 days).

Do dogs heal themselves by licking?

Stock your canine first aid kit with wound care supplies rather than letting your dog lick wounds. A veterinarian should check any deep penetrating wound ASAP. Smaller abrasions and lacerations should be gently cleaned, thoroughly rinsed, and dried with a towel. Ask your veterinarian for advice on over-the-counter antiseptic sprays or washes to use for aftercare on larger wounds or to help treat minor scrapes and cuts at home.

Sports-playing or competitive dogs may be more prone to injuries than their sedentary relatives. Make sure to pack your first aid kit while traveling because these dogs require specific bandages and antibacterial products.

In some instances, if something is really bothering a dog, they simply won’t stop licking. You can try a number of things to stop the behavior. Additionally, think about requesting suggestions for antiseptic sprays from your veterinarian.

  • For dogs licking paws, try placing a specially designed paw bandage, or even one of your socks wrapped with adhesive surgical tape, over the irritated paw.
  • Putting a T-shirt on your dog to cover a wound provides loose protection that also lets air reach the spot.
  • You can purchase a recovery suit to protect your dog. Some even fold up or snap out of the way so your dog can wear them when they need to eliminate.
  • Veterinarians suggest that the only guaranteed way to protect a wound from licking, especially at night or when you’re not watching the dog, is to use a properly fitted Elizabethan collar.
  • It’s crucial to keep in mind that wounds need oxygen to heal and constant blood flow to the area. Therefore, bandages, recovery suits, and any other types of wraps used to cover them shouldn’t be too tight, suggests Dr. Jerry Klein, AKC chief veterinary officer.

    Will Licking Help To Heal Wounds?

    We’ve all heard that a dog’s saliva is antiseptic. Consequently, some argue that letting them lick your wounds may be a good idea. However, this is typically a bad idea. Dogs that are particularly attached to their owners (such as many herding breeds or Pitbulls) may attempt to lick their wounds. However, this does not imply that it is a wise decision or that you ought to consent to it!

    For a number of different reasons, licking is problematic. First off, while dog saliva does possess some antiseptic properties, they are typically insignificant in comparison to those found in modern medicine. Utilizing some sort of antiseptic cream is much preferable. The antiseptic properties of a dog’s saliva are often overblown.

    According to one study, a dog’s saliva only withstands the growth of some strains. Others will flourish. For instance, E. Coli has a hard time growing in canine salvia. This is a bacterium that commonly infects newly born puppies, so a dog’s resistance to this bacterium makes perfect sense. However, Staphylococcus is not affected by the antiseptic properties and grows freely.

    It’s interesting to note that Staphylococcus bacteria cause the majority of wound infections in dogs, known as Staph infections. It is most likely because dog saliva doesn’t inhibit the growth of this bacterium.

    Second, compared to human skin, a dog’s saliva has a different microbiome. In each of our bodies, including our saliva, there are “good” bacteria. Dogs’ saliva contains significantly different bacteria than humans’ skin does. Therefore, if we let a dog lick our wound, we might be introducing potentially harmful bacteria. Although the bacteria might not harm our dog, they will be bad for us.

    Finally, a dog’s tongue is simply not very soft. It can harm injured tissue and stop that tissue from healing It can easily reopen wounds, which can lead to infections. A dog’s tongue can damage new tissue if your wound has already begun to heal.

    The best course of action is to apply an antiseptic cream and keep your dog away from the wound. Some dogs appear to have an innate urge to lick wounds when they are exposed to them. However, this is not recommended in the least. Keep it away from them, if necessary using a band-aid or similar object.

    Do dogs heal themselves by licking?

    What to Do If Your Dog Won’t Stop Licking?

    Despite your best efforts, your dog may occasionally persist in licking their wounds. You can try the following to assist them in breaking the habit:

  • For paws, use a surgical bandage meant for paws or even a surgical bandage with a sock over it.
  • Consider putting a T-shirt over your dog to restrict their access to their wound. A loose shirt also allows air to get to the wound.
  • If these fail, the best method to stop a dog from getting to their wound is with an Elizabethan collar.
  • Keep in mind that covering the wound entirely is not the best course of action, even if your dog is making it worse by licking it. Any wound needs air and blood supply to heal. A dog’s wound will take longer to heal if it is tightly bandaged.


    Can a dog heal its wounds by licking it?

    Although licking may provide some protection against specific bacteria, allowing your dog to lick wounds has significant risks. Excessive licking can irritate skin, resulting in hot spots, infections, and the possibility of self-mutilation. Licking and chewing can also slow healing by reopening wounds.

    Why do dogs lick injuries?

    Your dog licks your wounds as a sign of concern for you as a pack member. When hurt, a dog’s natural instinct is to lick at the wound in an effort to treat and heal it. Dogs will do this to people they care about. However, it’s also possible that your dog enjoys the flavor and wants more of it!