Why do dogs lick their wounds?

Bijgewerkt: sep 23

You’ll probably know the phenomenon: your dog has gotten a little wound and before you know it he’s licking it. While some state that it’s very healthy a dog does this (it would fasten the healing process), others claim it can only cause infections and thus is very dangerous. So what’s the truth about dogs licking their wounds?


Why do dogs lick their wounds?

Licking wounds is a behaviour that results from their instinct. Unlike humans, a dog only has one means to cleanse his wounds: his tongue. By licking the wound, he can clear it from dirt. Which results in a lower chance of infections. On top of that, their saliva contains enzymes that can destroy the walls of cells from dangerous bacteria. Lastly, licking the wounds might soften the pain a little.


From that point of view, for sure it seems like there are no problems with a dog licking his wounds.


Dangers of licking wounds

There are however, certain side notes with what’s written above. Although the licking can help the healing process when the wound is fairly small, with bigger wounds, this could be way more dangerous. Next to the enzymes that are present in the saliva of dogs, it also contains many different bacteria which could result in infecting the wound. That’s why most of the time, it is not recommended to let a dog lick his wounds. It also occurs that when a dog continuously licks his wound, the wound opens up again. This then results in slower healing and once more makes him more susceptible for infections.


What can we do to help?

Although it’s often not a danger at all when your dog licks little wounds, the medication we can offer is often way more efficient. Especially when the wound is big, it’s important to make sure your dog gets the right care. Your vet will probably have different options to keep your dog from licking his own wounds. Mostly used are medical collars and bandages that prevent your dog from reaching the wound.


Whenever you are in doubt about the seriousness of a wound, make sure to contact your vet as soon as possible.


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