Why Dogs Lick Wounds: Unveiling the Canine Healing Habit

July 11, 2023

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Why Dogs Lick Wounds: Unveiling the Canine Healing Habit


Dogs have long been recognized as loyal companions, providing us with unconditional love and comfort. But have you ever wondered why dogs have a natural inclination to lick wounds? Whether it's their own injuries or human wounds, dogs seem to instinctively turn to this behavior. In this blog, we'll explore the reasons behind this intriguing canine habit and shed light on its potential benefits and risks.

Natural Instinct:

Dogs' penchant for licking wounds stems from their innate instincts. In the wild, dogs would often lick their own wounds to clean and disinfect them. Their saliva contains certain enzymes with antimicrobial properties, which can help remove dirt, dead tissue, and bacteria from the affected area. Additionally, the act of licking stimulates blood flow to the wound, promoting the healing process.

Cleaning and Hygiene:

Licking is a dog's way of maintaining cleanliness and hygiene. They use their tongues as an all-purpose tool, which they employ to groom themselves and keep their fur clean. When it comes to wounds, dogs instinctively view them as something that needs to be cleaned. By licking the area, they attempt to remove any debris or foreign particles that might hinder the healing process.

Pain Relief and Soothing:

Licking wounds can provide dogs with a soothing effect and pain relief. The mechanical action of the tongue against the skin stimulates the release of endorphins, which are natural painkillers. Moreover, the act of licking triggers a comforting sensation akin to how a human might rub or massage a sore area to alleviate pain. Consequently, dogs often find solace in licking their wounds to soothe discomfort.

Emotional Bonding:

Beyond the physical benefits, licking wounds can also serve as a way for dogs to demonstrate their care and affection. Dogs are highly social animals, and licking is one of the ways they communicate and strengthen their bond with humans. When a dog licks our wounds, it may be an instinctive display of empathy and a desire to provide comfort. In this sense, the act of licking wounds can be seen as a gesture of love and loyalty.

Potential Risks:

While licking wounds is a natural behavior for dogs, there are a few potential risks to consider:

  1. Infection and Delayed Healing: Although a dog's saliva has some antimicrobial properties, it also contains various bacteria, which can introduce infections to the wound. Excessive licking may disrupt the wound healing process, leading to delayed recovery or even worsening the condition. It's important to monitor and prevent dogs from excessively licking wounds, especially in cases of surgical incisions or severe injuries.
  2. Self-Inflicted Injury: Dogs may sometimes go overboard with licking, leading to self-inflicted injuries. Constant licking can irritate the skin, causing redness, inflammation, and the formation of hot spots. If you notice your dog excessively licking a particular area, it's crucial to intervene and redirect their behavior to prevent further harm.


The instinctual act of licking wounds is deeply ingrained in dogs. From cleaning and hygiene to pain relief and emotional bonding, dogs have various reasons for engaging in this behavior. While it can have some benefits, it's essential for dog owners to strike a balance and ensure that excessive licking doesn't lead to complications. If you have concerns about your dog's wound care, it's always best to consult a veterinarian for guidance on appropriate wound management techniques and potential interventions to promote healing while keeping your furry friend safe and comfortable.