Dog Tips

Should a Dog Lick Wounds to Heal Them?

To lick or not to lick – this question has troubled pet owners for a long long time. We can understand why. When history itself has examples of humans thinking of dog’s saliva as magical. 

The Greeks, for example, who gave us the Olympics and the toga party, believed that the saliva of dogs had curative properties. Even in medieval Europe, it was common to let dogs lick wounds in the hope of a miraculous recovery. 

We don’t know about humans now but dogs themselves do think that their saliva has some magical powers. Because the moment there is the smallest wound on any of their body part, they start playing Dr. Dolittle with their tongues. We may think that if this is a natural instinct for dogs, it must be effective as evolution would have caused it. But it’s not that simple. 

Let’s understand the science behind it and then determine if licking wounds helps dogs or not. 

Will a Dog Licking a Wound Help It?

Dogs lick wounds to soothe the pain and discomfort. Licking basically, overstimulates the brain, which helps numb the brain temporarily. It’s the same as we humans trying to rub or hold our wounds. Licking also helps clean the bacteria and debris off the wound. Some studies say that dogs’ tongues have bacteria-killing properties. (1)

Now if we analyze these two use cases – licking does help them feel relieved of the pain. But, cleaning the bacteria may not be as effective as it works only against a couple of them. Licking can actually cause the growth of many other bacteria in the wound. (1)

Another problem here is that dogs usually end up over-licking their wounds. This may even cause dissolving stitches, reopening wounds, and exacerbating infections. This will not only not help but make the healing process slower by irritating the wound. (1)

Hence, wounds do not like dog tongues. So, it’s better to stop your dog from licking its own wounds.  

How to Heal a Dog Wound Fast?

In case of an accident, basic first-aid is first needed for open wounds. Here are the steps for it – (2)

  • Take a clean cloth and apply pressure on the wound until the bleeding stops

  • Wash off any excess blood and debris with lukewarm water and a pet-safe antiseptic solution.

  • Wrap the wound with gauze, an anti-microbial ointment and a bandage to prevent bacteria from entering. Do not tie it very tight. 

And done.

Now to heal the wound fast – 

  • Clean the wound regularly

  • Dress the wound every day again as a dirty wound will take more time to heal and can also get infected. 

  • Make sure you use pet friendly dressing equipment. 

  • Schedule a vet appointment to ensure the wound is healing properly. 

  • Anti-biotics or other medication may be prescribed by the vet for faster healing. 

Are Dog Licks Clean?

Dogs explore the world with their tongues. They eat random things from the ground and lick themselves at places that we are sure you’ve already got a mental image of (not to forget that random things on ground can also be poop at times). Apart from the ‘yuck’ feeling that you already got, this also causes dog’s mouths to become a host of several types of bacteria.

You may argue that we just mentioned above that a dog’s saliva has healing properties. Yes, it does. But would you use a cleaning product that’s 50% bleach and 50% mud? 

What to do if a Dog Licks an Incision?

Fresh stitches can be itchy and the dog may not be able to urge the need to scratch. But you should be preventing your dog from licking an incision. It can cause a delay in the healing process and a chance of developing an infection. Here are some ways you can do so – (3)

  • Elizabeth collar

  • Inflatable collar

  • Leg sleeves

  • A specialized shirt, recovery suit or compression onesie

In the case of using clothes, make sure the fabric is breathable as wounds need oxygen to heal. 

More About Spot Pet Insurance

While you’re doing everything possible to make your dog’s wound heal faster, let us do everything possible to help you financially so that your dog receives the best of treatments in every situation. With pet health insurance, you can save up to 90% of the vet and treatment costs. 

Spot accident and illness plans can be used with any licensed vet in Canada or the U.S. Whether you are home, or traveling to the U.S., veterinary services your pet receives for the diagnosis, treatment, or management of covered conditions can be eligible for reimbursement. Spot’s accident and illness plans can help cover a variety of conditions including broken bones, lacerations, aggression, kidney disease, diabetes, and more. With the addition of Wellness Riders for an extra cost, you can also receive reimbursements for wellness exams, certain vaccinations, dental cleanings, and more. 

Learn more about dog insurance or get a free quote!

  1. . Grenus, B., DVM. (2023, September 8). How to keep your dog from licking their wounds.

  2. 2. Dog wound care: types & home treatments | BetterVet. (2023, October 31).

  3. 3. Account, S. (2022, June 29). What Happens if my Dog Licks its Incision Site? Lick Sleeve.

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