Why Does My Dog Lick My Wounds?

In this article, we will be taking a look at the question “Why does my dog lick my wounds“? We have seen a number of people asking this question when we have been browsing the various forums, and blogs so decided to publish this article.

Although it can be an undesired behavior in your dog, believe it or not, your trusty pet is actually trying to help you in its own little way. Although there are a number of reasons that a dog may like a humans wound, we will only be covering the main ones.

Why Does My Dog Lick My Wounds

If a dog is licking human wound then it is usually down to a pack hierarchy instinct. Your dog is essentially grooming or trying to heal you as it perceives you as the pack alpha, or at the very least higher in the pack social structure than itself.

Additionally, a dogs saliva has various antibacterial properties that can help prevent infection. Over thousands of years of evolution, dogs have developed the habit of licking their own wounds in an attempt to reduce the chance of infection from any broken skin. This evolutionary habit would also apply to other members of their pack in an attempt to increase the overall survivability of the pack. As your dog sees you as a pack member, it may lick your wound in an attempt to help prevent infection.

It is said that ancient Egyptians would allow dogs to lick their wounds in an attempt to fight off infection. Although records and reports are sketchy, it does seem that they had some luck in the practice.

What Healing Properties Does Dog Saliva Actually Have

Here is a list of the enzymes within canine saliva that are known to help fight off various types of infection and bacteria:-

  • Lysozyme an antimicrobial enzyme that has been known to kill the precursors to a full-blown infection.
  • Peroxidase a similar enzyme to Lysozyme but slightly more efficient at fighting some forms of bacteria.
  • Lactoferrin, a common enzyme in the human immune system anyway as well as in the milk of various species to try and strengthen their offsprings immune systems too.
  • Defensins an excellent antifungal and antiinfection enzyme that has also shown to be beneficial to fight off viruses.
  • Cystatins, they work similar to defensins covered above.
  • Opiorphin, also contained within human saliva. It helps numb pain and hides the burning sensation of bacterial infection in wounds.
  • Thrombospondin not much is understood about Thrombospondin and it was only discovered in the 1970s but it is believed to help fight infection.
  • Nitrates that help prevent the rapid growth of any present bacteria.

Although all of the above are contained, they are not in sufficient quantity to provide any real reliable anti-infection defense when compared to what we have access to in this day and age.

What Negative Properties Are In A Dogs Saliva

Here are some of the worse possible bacteria that could be found lurking in your dog’s saliva at the exact same time as the positive enzymes covered above:-

  • Pasteurella, named after Louis Pasteur himself who discovered this bacteria, they can turn into a nasty infection if they catch your bodies immune system off guard via an open wound.
  • Staphylococcus has multiple strains and more than one strain can be found in a dog’s bacteria. If Staphylococcus takes hold then not only can your skin feel like it is burning but open wounds will leak puss while nearby muscles seize up.

Why Does My Dog Lick My Wounds.

A Word Of Warning

The antibacterial properties of dog saliva are nowhere near as effective as the various antibacterial products on the market and will not prevent the growth of all bacteria strains. Additionally, a dogs saliva contains other bacteria that can actually be transferred to your wound and potentially make it work.

My Dog Licked My Open Wound/What Happens If A Dog Licks Your Cut

If you do have a wound, we highly recommend that you seek professional help from your local doctor. At the very least, try to minimize the exposure that your dog has to it and always use a high-quality antibacterial product on it if your dog does end up licking it to minimize the chance of accidental infection.

My Dog Licks My Scabs

Even a closed wound that has scabbed over and is now healing can attract licking from your dog. The reasons behind it are exactly the same as previously covered in the article. One thing to note is that letting your dog lick scabs can actually be counterproductive as it may rip the scab off the wound.

Not only does this slow down the healing process but it also reopens the wound to the possibility of infection from external sources. Our recommendation is to never let your dog lick open wounds or scabs on you as we have much better treatments available in this day and age that are much safer for you.

How Do I Stop My Dog From Licking My Wounds

A simple barrier such as a bandage is an excellent, effective, quick and easy way to prevent your dog from licking any wounds or scabs on your body. Bandages are cheap and many households will already have them in a basic household first aid kit.

You can try to train this licking behavior out of your dog but in our opinion, it is a massive waste of time and effort. It will often take so much time for the average person to train this behavior out of your dog that any open wound that you do have will probably have healed over before training is complete. Just put a bandage over the wound, chances are that its enough to deter your dog from attempting to lick any wounds.

If your dog still attempts to lick the wound or the bandage then you can try to rub some citrus herb or scapes onto the outer bandage provided you are confident it will not get through the bandage to the wound. This is usually enough to deter your dog as the vast majority of canines don’t like citrus.