Wound licking is an instinctive response in humans and many other animals to lick an injury. Dogs, cats, small rodents and primates all lick wounds.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 human mouth.
Dog saliva has been said by many cultures to have curative powers in people. "Langue de chien, langue de médecin" 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 tongue, licking a wound, heals it" appears in a thirteenth-century manuscript. InAncient Greece, dogs at the shrine of Aesculapius were trained to lick patients, and snake saliva was also applied to wounds. Saint Roch in the Middle Ages was said to have been cured of a plague of sores by licking from his dog. The Assyrian Queen Semiramis is supposed to have attempted to resurrect the slain Armenian king Ara the Beautifulby having the dog god Aralez lick his wounds. In the Scottish Highlands in the nineteenth century, dog lick was believed to be effective for treating wounds and sores.In theGospel of Luke (16:19-31), Lazarus the Beggar's sores are licked by dogs, although no curative effects are reported by the Evangelist.
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,and a case of dog saliva promoting wound healing was reported in the Lancet medical journal.
People often ask about dogs licking their wounds, and whether that promotes healing or gets in the way of proper healing. There’s nothing quite so pitiful as an injured dog wearing one of those big conical collars to prevent them from doing what they most want to do by nature – lick their wounds.
And while it’s certainly good to keep your pet from licking freshly stitched cuts (he might pull out stitches and end up with a bigger, uglier scar), once the stitches have been in place for a few days and begin to dissolve or are very soon to be removed, letting the dog go ahead and lick may even promote healing.
There are a couple of reasons for this. First, it’s true that dog saliva has antibiotic properties. Specifically, dog saliva contains lysozyme, an enzyme that lyses and destroys harmful bacteria. This means the enzyme attaches to the bacterial cell wall – particularly gram-positive bacteria – and weakens it, leading to rupture.
The second reason is direct stimulation of the tissues and small blood vessels surrounding the wound site. This helps to increase blood flow and promote the growth of new capillaries, while the blood brings white cells, platelets, growth factors and other of the body’s natural healing agents to the wound site.
So if your dog has an injury or undergoes an operation, ask your vet when it will be safe to allow the dog to lick the wound. Generally the vet will have administered antibiotic drugs, so infection of the wound site usually isn’t a big concern.
Dog saliva is often used on various wounds. The dog will instinctively lick his wounds, attempting to relive the pain. The saliva will form a film of coolness on top of the wound, numbing the area and reducing the pain. Also, the compounds in the dog saliva may facilitate the healing of the wound and neutralize certain bacteria, but on the other hand, the saliva may also contain various bacteria that can be harmful.
Benefits of Dog Saliva on Wounds
The dog and other animals tend to lick their wounds. This is done to alleviate the pain and to numb the area. This procedure is believed to be a type of self treatment or zoopharmacognosy.
The saliva is also thought to contain antibacterial microorganisms (i.e. nitrates) and various enzymes (i.e. lysozyme or lactoferrin) and antibodies that can speed up the recovery of the wound. The dog saliva is though to be effective in fighting bacteria such as staphylococcus, streptococcus canis or E. coli.
The saliva may also contain certain antiviral agents such as thrombospondin.
Saliva should help healing wounds. This theory is also backed up by the fact that the oral mucosa heals faster than normal skin and this is attributed to the fact that it is always moist and full of saliva.