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Why do dogs lick their wounds?

Updated on February 18, 2012

The myth

People believe that a dog’s mouth is much cleaner than the mouth of humans. This is perhaps the reason why some people would allow their dogs to lick their feet, their hands as well as their faces and mouths. When a dog licks the master, the dog is only showing is affection.

The truth

Domesticated dogs share the home and at times even the bed of the owner. This is why these pampered pets are kept clean and groomed regularly. However, there are many doubting Thomases on the notion that a dog’s mouth is cleaner and bacteria free as compared to the mouth of humans. Dogs are dogs and they have the propensity to raid the trash can and the litter box. No matter how well fed they are they will still eat spoiled food, rotten meat and anything that they find interesting. Dogs even eat feces. Some pet owners may clean their dog’s mouth but most dog owners don’t bother to do so.

Wound licking

The idea that a dog’s mouth is cleaner than a human’s mouth probably stemmed from the fact that dogs lick their wounds and yet their wounds rarely get infected. In fact wounds that are constantly licked by the dog heal faster than a wound that is medicated and covered by a vet wrap.

Licking to clean and heal the wound

When a dog licks the wound it is in fact cleaning the wound and removing dead tissues not unlike the way doctors clean a wound using cotton swabs. The dog’s tongue is an efficient “cotton swab” that thoroughly cleans the wound. Dogs salivate more and the saliva loosens scabs formed on the surface of the wound.

You may have noticed that wound licked by the dog heals quickly. These wounds rarely get infected. The dog’s saliva has a special enzyme that has antibacterial substances and therefore has healing capacity. 

Dogs surely have one effective way of healing their wounds. However, it would no come amiss if the pet owner would inspect the wound too. If the wound is caused by a thorn or a splinter, excessive licking can drive the splinter into the flesh of the dog. As it is embedded on the dog’s skin no amount of licking can remove the offending splinter. The saliva may have an antibiotic capacity but this case calls for the intervention of the pet owner if not the assistance of a vet.


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      Tony 4 years ago

      How do dogs clean other dogs ears when it is ripped open a lot

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      lexy 6 years ago

      hi people with dogs!

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      Gerald 7 years ago

      Nice stuff.