To Lick Or Not To Lick Wounds
Will saliva heal wounds? As unlikely as it sounds, scientific evidence suggests that dog saliva, and even human saliva, has some antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. Dog saliva is even slightly bactericidal against Escherichia coli (E. coli), and against Streptococcus canis, which can be passed from companion animals to humans. In addition, a dog’s tongue is good at loosening any dirt from a wound. However, the keyword in this research is “slightly.” Modern medicine has far surpassed saliva in terms of effectiveness at wound healing, with veterinary antiseptic products providing a better alternative.
You can be allergic to dog saliva.
While many people believe that pet fur is the culprit of allergic reactions to dogs, many of these allergies actually stem from proteins found in dog saliva.
According to one study, dog saliva contains at least 12 different allergy-causing protein bands. When dogs lick their fur, the saliva dries, and these proteins become airborne.1
The researchers who conducted the study concluded that dog saliva has greater potential as an allergen source than dog dander. The study revealed that a specific protein profile (IgE) differs between dogs, making some dogs saliva more allergic for specific humans who are hypersensitive to this protein.
Dogs instinctively lick wounds. Something hurts, so they lick it. That’s all they can do. The idea that dogs need to lick wounds in order for them to heal is so pervasive that many people, including ancient societies, believed that dog saliva can also heal human wounds. This belief has some basis in fact, but over time has achieved mythic proportions.
Verify: Can dog saliva cause an infection?
Dog saliva is often used by canines to help heal their wounds. A dog will instinctively lick its wounds in an attempt to relieve pain. The dog’s saliva forms a film on top of the wound, numbing the area and reducing the pain.
Compounds in dog saliva may assist in healing the wound and will neutralize certain bacteria. However, dog saliva may also contain bacteria that can be harmful to humans.
Dog saliva is believed to contain antibacterial microorganisms, enzymes and antibodies that can speed up the recovery of a dog’s wounds. It’s also thought to be effective in helping a dog fight bacteria such as staphylococcus, streptococcus canis, or E. coli.
One dog saliva myth is that it’s beneficial both for dog wounds and human wounds. There is a bit of truth in this belief, but putting dog saliva on a human wound can result in any number of problems. The bacteria in the saliva may infect a human’s skin and prove to be harmful for the human.
When a dog excessively licks its wounds, it’s not always good for the dog either as it can lead to the formation of acral lick granulomas and patches of hair loss. Also, the dog may develop an obsessive-compulsive behavior of licking, chewing and biting the wound. Some vets believe that when a dog licks its wounds too much it destroys all the benefits canine saliva has on the wounds.
Another dog saliva myth that has been proven wrong is that dogs will pass on their illnesses to you through their saliva. Most of the bacteria in a dog’s saliva is specific to canines and won’t harm humans.
Some other myths and facts about dog saliva include the belief that since dog saliva contains a special enzyme to promote healing of a dog’s wounds, it will have the same effect on human’s cuts. The fact is that enzymes in a dog’s saliva will only work on the wounds of dogs. Allowing your dog to lick your cuts doesn’t mean the cuts will heal faster and it could lead to infection from any germs the dog may have in its mouth.
Another dog saliva fact and a potential health risk from having a wound licked by your dog, is the transmission of roundworms. These intestinal parasites are commonly found in kittens and puppies and are passed through licking of a wound. The symptoms of roundworm are coughing, fever and headaches. Hopefully your dog has been given deworming medication in the past and has subsequently been tested on a regular basis. If this is true, your risk of contracting roundworm is slim.
Hopefully this little tidbit of information about dog saliva myths and facts will spur you to do a little research on your own, even if it’s simply asking your vet for his or her opinion.