Does My Dog’s Saliva Have Healing Properties?


DNA helix from dog saliva

If it’s not obvious by now that we pups of this world possess parallel realm -unicorn like fairy dust, then I don’t know what to tell you. Even your dog’s saliva has healing properties – or better yet contains helpful healing markers. A more comprehensive list of our super powers can be found here, but for this post I want to focus on one single concept:

Does dog saliva have healing properties?

There are some antibacterial benefits to your dog’s saliva. Licking a wound is an innate behavior found in dogs and even humans. Dog saliva contains lysozyme, a tissue enzyme known to attack infectious bacteria cells and speed up the recovery time.

But, it’s imperative that you are fully aware of the possible risks of infections as they’re directly associated with licking an open wound.

Before we really dive deep in to this, I want to drop a discussion bomb on the group solely for philosophical pondering purposes. If we have tongues with healing enzymes actively living in our saliva, then what are we suppose to do with them, if not to lick our wounds?

Surface level food for thought.

Disclaimer: The Can My Dog articles contain information based on the individual research and opinions of the author of the site – who just so happens to be a dog. How you utilize the information given is completely up to you. Proceed at your own risk.

Dog’s Saliva is Healing Because – Lysozyme

What is lysozyme exactly?

Lysozyme is an antimicrobial enzyme produced naturally and found in tears, saliva, human breast milk, and mucus.

This is the enzyme that is most beneficial to fresh wounds. The analysis is derived from empirical data hypothesizing that since oral mucosa typically heals faster than flesh wounds, then it would stand to reason that your dog’s saliva contains healing properties to speed recovery of any kind.

I’ve heard countless times over the years that dog saliva has some kind of magical healing properties.

But then again I’ve heard just as many people tell me the exact opposite.

So, which is it?

Licking Wounds Was Effective Before Modern Medicine

While your dog’s saliva contains healing properties due to certain antibacterial enzymes, the evolution of modern medicine today has essentially rendered those innate properties ineffective.

Prior to the days of quickly scheduling vet visits, licking a wound was your dog’s best defense at warding off any type of infection. But by today’s measures, the licking of open wounds does the opposite.

Especially when compared to the healing rate of our more modern medicinal practices.

It’s best to keep a first aid kit readily available in the case your dog gets injured. And do your best to keep your dog from constantly licking their wound.

Pro tip: Remember that open wounds need oxygen and fresh air to heal – so use bandages and other wraps sparingly and only when necessary.

The truth is that excessive wound licking may do more harm than good. Let me explain.

Why It Isn’t a Good Idea to Let Your Dog Lick Their Wounds

There’s always a ‘but‘.

As I mentioned here last week, humans have over 700 different types of bacteria living in their mouths. That’s gross, but more importantly, this can lead to possible infection if the wrong type of bacteria gets inside your wound by way of saliva or other excretions.

Same goes for your dogs too. Dogs who obsessively lick a wound run the risk of irritation and bacterial infection for the same basic reasons. Not to mention the inability of the skin to close properly if it’s being continuously touched, aggravated, and unable to properly dry out.

For the dogs – Basic rule of thumb for healing yourself with your magic spit: chill out and stop obsessing over it. That’s when your humans are forced to put that horrendous cone thing on your head. Nobody looks cool in this. It’s an impossible look to pull off. Save yourself the embarrassment.

My personal disclaimer: there can be serious infectious side effects derived from licking wounds. I’m going to link a wiki page right here where you can scroll down to the bottom and read all about the risks involved. In quick summation, a few of those known risks include:

  • Cellulitis
  • Sepsis
  • Rabies transmission (very rare according to the CDC)
  • Allergic reactions to the proteins found in saliva

Maybe even land completely on the safe side and throw some hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol on your cut instead of licking or crying on it. Just a suggestion. I’m no medical professional.

What to Do When Your Dog Won’t Stop Licking

Here’s the thing, humans. When a dog has an injury, or an itch, they’re relentless in their licking pursuit.

Often times it’s near impossible to get your dog to stop licking their wounds without monitoring them 24/7. This can be frustrating. Below are a handful of options to try in attempts to get your dog to calm down on the obsessive licking.

Before diving in, let me reiterate the importance of calling your vet if the injury worsens or shows no sign of progress. They will be able to prescribe or recommend a good antiseptic spray for your dog.

But in the meantime…

Try one or a combination of these if you can’t get your dog to stop licking:

  • Inflatable dog collar – use this to restrict your dogs access to the wound. I’ll link one here from Chewy if you’re interested.
  • A small footie sock – if your dog incessantly licks their paws, try placing a small footie or sock over their infected paw. The sock is loose and allows for necessary air flow.
  • An old t-shirt – a loose fitting shirt can provide the same wound protection on the body as the footie did for the paw above. It keeps your dog from being able to lick the affected area while allowing for adequate air flow.

Tip: Ensure that whatever covering you choose to use is not tight and restrictive. This will inhibit the healing process.

Conclusion

I’m still going to lick it if it hurts. But I can be a mature enough dog to admit that there are quite a few negative draw backs to licking an open wound.

Especially with obsessive licking.

Infections and stuff.

Just do me a favor, regardless of what side of the wound licking debate you fall on, and continue to Live, Love, Laugh, and Scratch our bellies often!

Love you guys,

JTB

P.S. If you’re new to this world, you may want to check out my Ultimate Guide for First Time Dog Parents. It’s a great reference to get you started on this journey.

Related Questions

What Happens If a Dog Licks Your Cut?

While there are basic antibacterial benefits of allowing a dog to lick your cut, the potential side effects far outweigh the benefits.

Excessive licking on a wound by a dog can cause:

  • Skin / wound irritation
  • Infection
  • Swelling
  • Prolonged healing time

It’s best to dress your wound accordingly, and keep your dog from licking it at all.

Also, you might want to go see your doctor if the cut is bad enough. Be careful out there, humans!

Why Do Dogs Sniff Human Wounds?

While it’s true that a dog’s main superpower involves their sense of smell, the reason behind them effectively sniffing your wound is much more complex than that.

Dogs have the ability to smell and detect elevated blood sugar, alien compounds in the skin (which is why your dog sniffs your fresh tattoo), and even heightened levels of bacteria in your blood that can lead to an infection.

This is one of the reasons dogs have been recruited to learn to detect cancer in patients.

Let’s just say, they have a nose for it.

This article has been reviewed by our Editorial Board and has been approved for publication in accordance with our Editorial Policies.

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