If you’re lucky enough to be the owner of a dog, then you may have noticed your precious pooch exhibit a wide range of curious behaviors, from burying its toys to hiding its treats and more. But what does it mean when dogs try to lick their owner’s wounds? The answer to this question is quite simple. This article’s intention is to help you understand the process, the instinctual reasons behind why your dog does it, and what you can do to discourage the practice and help your dog learn other ways of showing their love and care.
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The Root of This Instinctual Behavior
When humans and animals get hurt, they naturally want to soothe the pain, and it’s quite common for other humans and animals to want to help, whether through a comforting hug or through the process of licking the injured area. When a pet owner gets hurt, dogs will instinctually think it’s their job to help them feel better. They will typically do this by licking wounds as a method of soothing and cleaning the area, as well as a way of communicating affection and affirming they see you as part of the pack. This behavior is actually exhibited by a wide range of animals besides dogs, including cats, rodents, and even monkeys.
Should You Let Your Dogs Lick Your Wounds?
There is an old belief that canine saliva can be helpful in cleaning and even healing your wounds, which dates back to ancient Egypt. There are even a few compounds present in dog saliva that could theoretically help disinfect and clean wounds, such as lysozyme, peroxidase enzymes, lactoferrin, opiorphin, and more. However, it’s the bacteria in your dog’s mouth that’s most likely to impact the state of your wounds, and not in a helpful way. Allowing your dog to lick your wounds may cause the development of an infection, especially if the wound is severe, deep, or if you allow your dog to lick them for an extended period, which can force more bacteria into the wound.
While some people may feel comfortable allowing their dog to lick small cuts as long as their pet has been fully dewormed and checked over by a certified veterinarian, it’s still not the best idea in the world. It could still lead to cellulitis, other general infections, and the introduction of dirt and debris into the wound, impeding its ability to heal at the speed it usually should. In some scenarios, allowing your dog to lick your wounds could end up causing abscesses as well.
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Discouraging the Behavior
As stated before, dogs are naturally inclined by instinct to try and lick their owner’s wounds to help soothe and heal them and show affection (though they may also just like the taste). It’s essential to remember that they don’t do it to try and be annoying or cause you additional injury, they just want you to be ok and feel loved, and the behavior does come from a place of pure intentions. Even so, that doesn’t change the fact that it can result in several potential issues that health-conscious pet owners would do well to avoid.
So what can you do to let your precious pup help comfort you while also keeping yourself safe from potential infections? It may take some time, but it’s best to try showing your dog that there are plenty of other ways they can help comfort and support you besides licking your wounds. For example, you can show them that you enjoy it when they lick your face, snuggle up next to you, or even just spend time with you. Once you’ve shown them other ways they can help when you’re hurt, they will be less inclined to default to trying to lick your wounds clean. Remember to have patience and take your time with them since it can take a while to help them overcome this instinct.
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What Else Can You Do About it?
Aside from helping your dog understand that there are other ways to comfort and soothe you aside from licking your wounds, it’s generally a good idea to keep them away from your wounds altogether. This can be done by disinfecting your injuries and wrapping them up as soon as you can after they occur. Doing this will help prevent any infections from developing on their own and help keep your dogs licking instincts more under control. If they can’t access your wound through your bandages, then they may not be so inclined to start licking you.
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Final Thoughts to Keep in Mind
It’s essential for dog owners to work on developing positive, helpful relationships with their animals that are healthy, strong, and loving, even if that isn’t always the easiest thing in the world to accomplish. Remember, it’s an instinct for dogs to lick their wounds and the wounds of those they care for, especially their human owners. However, their good intentions don’t necessarily deliver the best results. That said, dogs love their owners and naturally want to care for them, and that’s not likely to ever change. So, you’ll need to work with them on finding healthier, more sanitary ways to do that. It may take a bit of time and patience, but it will be worth it to discover all the new ways your dog will be able to let you know they love you. And if you’d care to learn even more information about why dogs do some of the delightfully strange things they do, please consider checking out the range of helpful dog guides provided by the pet experts at Runball. Also, be sure to take a look at their selection of superior-quality dog treats and toys while you’re at it!
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