Dogs licking their wounded body parts is a common thing to spot. Although this is a common instinctive response on dog injuries, some dogs have gone too far with all the licking and scratching to the wound site, causing it to worsen rather than get better. Hence, it is important to supervise your dog behavior toward an injured site, as this might influence the entire healing process.
Why dogs lick their wounds
When a dog is wounded, their tongue acts similarly to our hands. Thus, licking the wounded site is instinctive treatments like the ones we, humans, might do in an initial stage of wounds. While most researches have proven this behavior to be beneficial in the entire wound healing in dogs, wound licking should still be supervised to make sure that it is not done too excessively, causing bacterial infection, rather than healing improvement.
Benefits when dogs lick their wounds moderately
Dog wound licking is beneficial wound their wound healing process when done moderately. Moderately means the dog is not obsessed with the wound and lick it non-stop. A good wound licking is done occasionally and under control. Be alert when the dog does not want to leave the wound alone and start to bite it instead of licking.
Dog saliva contains substances which are proven to be able to promote wound healing. Those substances are lysozyme—bacteria-killing enzyme which prevents bacteria overgrowth in the mouth, making the dog saliva cleaner than humans’, histatins—simple protein which inhibits infection and promote skin cell growth to cover a wound site, and nerve growth agent—a protein which speed up the nerve growth within a wound. Hence, moderate dog wound licking might promote healing due to some things below:
- The movement of dog lick loosens any debris which is attached to the surface of the wound. This will leave the area of the wound clean and debris-free.
- Dog saliva helps moisturizing the wound site. This is the best environment for new skin cells to grow and replace the damaged ones, triggering the wound to heal more quickly. The nerve growth agents and histatins contained by this saliva also additionally promote faster healing of the wound.
- The lysozyme found in dog saliva is helpful in destroying dangerous bacteria which may reside on the wound site. This enzyme contains anti-bacterial and anti-viral compounds which are important in promoting wound site hygiene. This anti-bacterial compound also reduces the severity of itching sensation occurring during wound healing period.
- Licking the wound lessens the pain caused by the wound site. Opiorphin, which exists on dog saliva is an effective pain-relieving compound, which helps reducing the pain around wounded body parts.
Despite its beneficial function, wound licking should be kept moderate. Consider these things when dealing with dog wound licking:
- Make sure the dog is licking the wound, not biting it or the area around the wound.
- When antibiotic ointment and other medications are applied onto the wound site, make sure your dog does not lick it. Some substances in medications are not meant to be swallowed. Putting on an e-collar might be helpful in preventing the dog from licking the wound.
- Do not let the dog lick a surgical incision, especially if the wound closure is done by stitching, since a dog tends to bite and pull the stitches out, which may encourage bleeding and infection.
- Pay attention to the fur and skin around the wounded area. When it gets thinner or vanishes, your dog needs to be stopped from licking the wound. This is an early sign of over-licking, which may trigger further infection problem.
- Bandage the wound whenever possible, especially if the wound is deep and large. You can also spray no-lick spray around the wound site to reduce the licking frequency.
- If the wound does not heal properly or undergoes re-bleeding and the signs of infection, immediately take the dog to an emergency room. For the first aid at home, you can rinse or wipe the wound off using saline solution, a natural anti-bacterial agent. This will kill harmful bacteria and prevent early development of infection.