If a Dog Licks My Cut or Wound, Will It Heal Faster - We Save Dogs Life

If a Dog Licks My Cut or Wound, Will It Heal Faster



IN HUMANS AND many other animals, wound licking is an instinctive response to an injury. Dogs, cats, rodents, and primates all lick their own wounds, and dogs will often lick sore places and bleeding patches of skin on their human family members or other people. There is a common folk belief that animal saliva, especially that of dogs, has healing properties for human wounds. Evidence for this belief comes from a number of historical traditions. For example, in ancient Egypt the city of Hardai became known as Cynopolis (“City of Dogs”) because in its many temples dedicated to Anubis, the dog-headed guide of the dead, dogs were used as offerings. However, dogs were also used in healing practices there, because the people strongly believed that being licked by a dog, especially in those areas of the body containing sores or lesions, would help to heal the injury or cure the disease causing it. This practice was picked up by the Greeks, and temples dedicated to Asclepius, their god of medicine and healing, often contained dogs trained to lick wounds. In the Middle Ages, Saint Roch was said to have been cured of a plague of sores by being licked by his dog. The value of being licked by a dog is still believed by many cultures to have curative powers. There is even a contemporary French saying to this effect: Langue de chien, langue de médecin, which translates to “A dog’s tongue is a doctor’s tongue.”
The simple mechanical action of a dog’s tongue can be helpful in dealing with a wound. The saliva on the tongue loosens any debris that may be on the surface of the wound. Any dirt or other debris will also become attached to the moisture of the saliva; thus, at the very least, the area of the wound will be cleansed.
However, the focus of much scientific research has been on the various antibiotic and helpful compounds that are found in a dog’s saliva. The healing powers of saliva have long been suspected, because lesions inside the mouth mend more quickly and scar less than do wounds on the skin. Menno Oudhoff of the University of Amsterdam found simple proteins called “histatins” in saliva. Histatins are well known for their ability to ward off infections. Some histatins also prompt cells from the skin’s surface (called the “epithelium”) to close over a wound more quickly. Oudhoff noted, “The first thing that needs to happen for wound healing is to activate the migration of epithelial cells.”
Dr. Nigel Benjamin, a clinical pharmacologist with St. Bartholomew’s Hospital and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, claims that licking wounds is as beneficial to humans as it is to animals. His research showed that when saliva comes in contact with skin, nitrite—a natural component of saliva—breaks down into nitric oxide, a chemical compound that is effective in protecting cuts and scratches from bacterial infections. In addition, researchers at the University of Florida at Gainesville have discovered a protein in saliva called “nerve growth factor” (NGF). Wounds doused with NGF healed twice as fast as untreated (that is, unlicked) wounds.
Despite all this evidence, the data on wound licking is not all positive. In the mouths of mammals we also find certain anaerobic bacteria, such as Pasteurella. While not harmful in the mouth, Pasteurella can cause serious infections when introduced deep into an open wound. There are a number of reports of this happening, and sometimes the results have been extremely negative, causing infections that have resulted in amputations and sometimes death.
One of the interesting aspects of these findings is the suggestion that the helpful chemicals are found not only in the saliva of dogs but also in the saliva of people. Thus, if you’re willing to ignore the possible complications in order to gain the healing benefits of having wounds licked, you might not need the assistance of Lassie or Fido. You can actually do it yourself. However, this does not mean that you should indiscriminately offer the benefits of your healing tongue to others. You should be aware of the case of an Oregon teacher who was reprimanded after licking blood from wounds on a track team member’s knee, a football player’s arm, and a high school student’s hand. An Oregon public health officer commented, “We do know that animals lick their own wounds, and it may be that saliva has some healing properties. But my very strong recommendation is that you confine yourself to licking your own wounds.

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