Why Do Dogs Lick Human Wounds?

Wound licking is an instinctive response in humans and many other animals to lick an injury. Dogs, cats, small rodents, horses, and primates all lick wounds.[1] Saliva contains tissue factor which promotes the blood clotting mechanism. The enzyme lysozyme is found in many tissues and is known to attack the cell walls of many gram-positive bacteria, aiding in defense against infection. Tears are also beneficial to wounds due to the lysozyme enzyme. However, there are also infection risks due to bacteria in the mouth.

Salivary tissue factor, associated with microvesicles shed from cells in the mouth, promotes wound healing through the extrinsic blood coagulation cascade. [11][12] Nitrates that are naturally found in saliva break down into nitric oxide on contact with skin , which will inhibit bacterial growth .

In a recent study, scientists have confirmed through several experiments that the protein responsible for healing properties in human saliva is, in fact, histatin. Indeed, a dog’s saliva is bactericidal against the bacteria Escherichia coli and Streptococcus canis , although not against coagulase-positive Staphylococcus or Pseudomonas aeruginosa . [38] Horses that lick wounds may become infected by a stomach parasite , Habronema , a type of nematode worm.

There are potential health hazards in wound licking due to infection risk, especially in immunocompromised patients. Human saliva contains a wide variety of bacteria that are harmless in the mouth, but that may cause significant infection if introduced into a wound. [43][44] ” Langue de chien, langue de mdecin ” is a French saying meaning ” A dog’s tongue is a doctor’s tongue “, and a Latin quote that “Lingua canis dum lingit vulnus curat” or “A dog’s saliva can heal your wound” appears in a thirteenth-century manuscript.

[45] In Ancient Greece , dogs at the shrine of Aesculapius were trained to lick patients, and snake saliva was also applied to wounds. [47] The Assyrian Queen Semiramis is supposed to have attempted to resurrect the slain Armenian king Ara the Beautiful by having the dog god Aralez lick his wounds. [48] In the Scottish Highlands in the nineteenth century, dog saliva was believed to be effective for treating wounds and sores.

[49] In the Gospel of Luke (16:19-31), Lazarus the Beggar ‘s sores are licked by dogs, although no curative effects are reported by the Evangelist. Allowing pet cats to lick open wounds can cause cellulitis [51][52] and sepsis [53][54] due to bacterial infections. [60] [61] A dog lick to an Australian woman’s minor burn caused sepsis and necrosis due to Capnocytophaga canimorsus infection, resulting in the loss of all her toes, fingers and a leg.

[62] [63] C. canimorsus caused acute kidney failure due to sepsis in a man whose open hand wound was licked by his dog. [65] A patient with a perforated eardrum developed meningitis after his dog passed on a Pasteurella multocida infection by licking his ear. They look on us at distance, and, like cursScaped from the lion’s paws, they bay far offAnd lick their wounds, and faintly threaten war.

“Secretory leukocyte protease inhibitor mediates non-redundant functions necessary for normal wound healing”. “The healing-promoting effect of saliva on skin burn is mediated by epidermal growth factor (EGF): role of the neutrophils”. CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list ( link ) ^ Pammer J, Weninger W, Mildner M, Burian M, Wojta J, Tschachler E (October 1998).

“Vascular endothelial growth factor is constitutively expressed in normal human salivary glands and is secreted in the saliva of healthy individuals” . “Topical application of the phospholipid growth factor lysophosphatidic acid promotes wound healing in vivo” . “Histatins are the major wound-closure stimulating factors in human saliva as identified in a cell culture assay”.

“Wound healing and expression of antimicrobial peptides/polypeptides in human keratinocytes, a consequence of common growth factors” . “Individual and social behavioral responses to injury in wild toque macaques ( Macaca Sinica )”. ^ Shumaker AK, Angus JC, Coyner KS, Loeffler DG, Rankin SC, Lewis TP (October 2008).

^ The Aberdeen Bestiary , a thirteenth-century English illuminated manuscript ^ Angeletti LR, Agrimi U, Curia C, French D, Mariani-Costantini R (July 1992). “Investigation of rabies infections in organ donor and transplant recipientsAlabama, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas, 2004” . “The major dog allergens, Can f 1 and Can f 2, are salivary lipocalin proteins: cloning and immunological characterization of the recombinant forms” .

“Fatal Pasteurella multocida septicemia and necrotizing fasciitis related with wound licked by a domestic dog”.

Simply speaking, no, you shouldnt allow your dog to lick your wound under any circumstances. Your dogs mouth is often a dirty place. Licking can introduce bacteria, which can lead to infections. Licking can also irritate your wound more since a dogs tongue isnt exactly the gentlest thing to rub on your wound.

Dogs instinctively lick wounds. Something hurts, so they lick it. Thats all they can do. The idea that dogs need to lick wounds in order for them to heal is so pervasive that many people, including ancient societies, believed that dog saliva can also heal human wounds. This belief has some basis in fact, but over time has achieved mythic proportions.

That is why surgeons send their canine patients home with Elizabethan collars to wear while sutures are in place or until the wound is completely healed (i.e. 10-14 days). Ask your veterinarian to recommend over-the-counter antiseptic sprays or washes to help treat small scrapes and cuts at home, or to use for follow-up care for larger wounds.

Veterinarians suggest that the only guaranteed way to protect a wound from licking, especially at night or when youre not watching the dog, is to use a properly fitted Elizabethan collar.

In animals[edit]

It has been long observed that the licking of their wounds by dogs might be beneficial. Indeed, a dog’s saliva is bactericidal against the bacteria

Risks[edit]

Wound licking is beneficial but too much licking can be harmful. An Elizabethan collar may be used on pet animals to prevent them from biting an injury or excessively licking it, which can cause a lick granuloma. These lesions are often infected by pathogenic bacteria such as

Legend[edit]

There are many legends involving healing wounds by licking them or applying saliva. Saint Magdalena de Pazzi is said to have cured a nun of sores and scabs in 1589 by licking her limbs.

Risks[edit]

There are potential health hazards in wound licking due to infection risk, especially in immunocompromised patients. Human saliva contains a wide variety of bacteria that are harmless in the mouth, but that may cause significant infection if introduced into a wound. A notable case was a diabetic man who licked his bleeding thumb following a minor bicycle accident, and subsequently had to have the thumb amputated after it became infected with

History and legend[edit]

Dog saliva has been said by many cultures to have curative powers in people.

Modern cases[edit]

There are contemporary reports of the healing properties of dog saliva. Fijian fishermen are reported to allow dogs to lick their wounds to promote healing,

Idiomatic use[edit]

As with the licking of wounds by people, wound licking by animals carries a risk of infection. Allowing pet cats to lick open wounds can cause cellulitis

Will Licking Help To Heal Wounds?

We’ve all heard that a dog’s saliva is antiseptic. Therefore, some people reason that it may be a good idea to allow them to lick your wounds. However, this is typically a bad idea. Especially dogs that are very attached to their owners (such as many herding breeds or Pitbulls) will try to lick wounds that the owner has. However, this does not mean it is a good idea or that you should allow it!The act of licking is troublesome for a few different reasons. Firstly, while a dog’s saliva does have some antiseptic properties, these are usually minor compared to modern medicine. You’re much better off using an antiseptic cream of some sort. The antiseptic properties of a dog’s saliva are often overblown.According to one study, a dog’s saliva only withstands the growth ofInterestingly enough, most wound infections on dogs are Staph infections, which are caused by Staphylococcus. It is likely due to the fact that the growth of this bacterium isn’t affected by a dog’s saliva.Secondly, a dog’s saliva contains a different microbiome than a human’s skin. We all have “good” bacteria in our bodies, including our saliva. Dogs have significantly different bacteria in their saliva than we do on our skin. Therefore, if we allow a dog to lick our wound, we’re introducing bacteria that may potentially be dangerous. The bacteria may not be harmful to our dog, but they will be harmful to us.Finally, a dog’s tongue is simply not very soft. It can damage wounded tissue and prevent tissue from growing back. It can reopen sores with some ease, which can cause infections to occur. If your wound has already started to heal, new tissue can be destroyed by a dog’s tongue.Your best bet is to use some sort of antiseptic cream and keep your wound away from your dog. Some dogs seem to have an instinctual need to lick wounds if they are presented. However, this is not recommended in the least. Keep it away from them, using a band-aid or something similar if necessary.

Can Dogs Heal Wounds by Licking?

No, not really. Dogs lick naturally because it is the only way they can keep their wounds clean. When you’re a wild, wounded dog, the only way you can remove dirt from your wound is by licking. You can’t rinse it off in a sink with clean water and use a clean towel for drying it. Dogs also don’t have band-aids and similar coverings to help the wound stay clean until it is healed.All you have is your ability to lick the wound clean.Therefore, nature has developed this ability into the best thing that it can. Dogs’ saliva prevents some bacteria from growing. However, this is only minorly effective, and the benefits largely stop there. There is nothing in a dog’s saliva that can make wounds heal faster. They don’t heal their wounds by licking; they simply keep them clean to prevent infection.It is important to remember that dogs in the wild can easily succumb to infected wounds – and they often do. Dogs are not immune to infections due to the slight antibacterial properties of their saliva. Allowing them to lick your wound doesn’t make it heal any faster, and it is not a terribly effective way to prevent infections either.

To Lick Or Not To Lick Wounds

Will saliva heal wounds? As unlikely as it sounds, scientific evidence suggests that dog saliva, and even human saliva, has some antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. Dog saliva is even slightly bactericidal against Escherichia coli (E. coli), and against Streptococcus canis, which can be passed from companion animals to humans. In addition, a dog’s tongue is good at loosening any dirt from a wound. However, the keyword in this research is “slightly.” Modern medicine has far surpassed saliva in terms of effectiveness at wound healing, with veterinary antiseptic products providing a better alternative.

Licking Harms More Than It Helps

Licking might offer some protection against certain bacteria, but there are serious drawbacks to letting your dog lick wounds. Excessive licking can lead to irritation, paving the way for hot spots, infections, and potential self-mutilation.Licking and chewing can also slow healing by reopening wounds. Surgery sites are especially dangerous for dogs to lick. Licking can break down sutures and reopen the site, necessitating a trip back to the veterinarian. Closure of reopened surgical wounds is often more intricate than initial clean wound closures. That is why surgeons send their canine patients home with Elizabethan collars to wear while sutures are in place or until the wound is completely healed (i.e. 10-14 days).Instead of letting your dog lick wounds, stock your canine first aid kit with wound care products. A veterinarian should check any deep penetrating wound ASAP. Smaller lacerations and abrasions should be washed gently, thoroughly rinsed, then patted dry. Ask your veterinarian to recommend over-the-counter antiseptic sprays or washes to help treat small scrapes and cuts at home, or to use for follow-up care for larger wounds.Active dogs that compete or engage in sports may be more prone to injuries than their more sedentary relatives. Antibacterial products and appropriate bandages are especially important for these dogs, so make sure you pack your first-aid kit while you’re on the road.