These Are The Reasons Your Dog Licks Your Wounds

Written by Justin Zipprich
Updated: September 20, 2023
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If you are a dog owner who has ever been injured, scratched, or cut, then you may know that it is not uncommon for your furry friend to come over to lick your wound. But why do they do that, and is it actually healthy for them to do so? Today, we will talk a bit about why a dog licks your wound. Also, we’ll let you know if it can cause more harm than good.

The Obsession of Dogs and Licking

why do dogs lick their paws

It is in a


instinct to lick their wounds when they are hurt in an effort to heal and clean debris from the wound.


In order to learn why your dog licks your wound, you should first understand why many dogs will lick their own wounds or cuts if they are hurt. It is like how we rub our foot when we stub our toe. This is a dog’s way of trying to soothe the area. If a dog had fingers or knew how to use medication, then it would do so. However, without anything else to use, they use their tongue to try and stop the pain. 

Dog Saliva Has Health Properties

In addition to making the area feel better, licking can also help to remove debris, such as bits of stray skin or dirt from the wound. Studies have also shown that there are actually antibacterial properties of saliva that can help to reduce the harm associated with conditions like Escherichia coli and Streptococcus canis. However, this is not a cure-all for disease as the licking only offers slight relief.

There are also some other minor compounds in dog saliva that can help with healing, including lysozyme and peroxidase enzymes. But again, this is only a temporary or minor fix. If your dog is hurt beyond a minor scratch, then bring them to the veterinarian.

The fact is that licking a wound goes back to their wolf ancestors. They were also known to use their tongues to lick their wounds to keep their injury clean and wash out the dirt and grime. 

As a final note, if your dog has recently had surgery or there is a wound that needs to heal on its own, then your dog should not lick it. If that is an issue, then they may need to wear a cone.

Why the Dog Licks Your Wound

So, now you understand why the dog licks their own injuries. However, is there any benefit to when the dog licks your wound? The answer is: not really. However, they will likely try to anyway. They essentially do this because you are a part of their family. Your dog probably had the wounds that they sustained as a pup licked by their mother. So, they continue that trend with their owners.

If your dog was part of a pack in the wild, then you would see that they would start licking if one of their fellow dogs were hurt. Also, even if they aren’t hurt, dogs in packs will often groom each other to keep their fur and skin clean, so they can remove any debris or dirt that could lead to an infection.

You may not think of it this way, but since you love and care for your dog, and they know that, your pup considers you an important part of their pack. That is why they instinctively want to take care of you as well, and they may lick your wounds to try and do so.

Is It Healthy If Your Dog Licks Your Wound?

A yellow lab licking its owners hands

You can allow your dog to lick your wound for a short time, but it won’t provide the same care as medicine or a visit to the doctor.

©Tina Rencelj/

As we mentioned, dogs do have some elements in their saliva that can reduce the severity of a wound. Those same properties can also help a human cut or injury to a degree. But again, it is very limited, and it is not enough to completely heal the wound. 

In fact, it is important not to let your dog go overboard when they lick your wounds. If they go too crazy, then your pup could do more harm than good. Keep in mind that your dog’s tongue is not overly soft. So, licking for a long period of time could cause your sore to reopen, which could invite more infection.

If your dog shows no interest in licking your wounds, then it is not something that you should force. If they try, then it is okay to let them for a short period of time. However, ensure that your dog is dewormed and healthy, so they don’t spread an infection to you. 

The main takeaway is that this is not really the healthiest way to heal an injury. Plus, it could lead to additional issues if you let it go on for too long. Instead, either use an over-the-counter ointment or talk to your doctor for proper care.

How Does My Dog Know I Have a Wound?

Dog licking human

There are accounts of dogs acting strangely and trying to paw at or nibble the area afflicted by cancer.

©Kazlova Iryna/

Dogs are superb at detecting injury due to their ability to smell changes in our bodies. They smell in parts per trillion, which is a measurement of the amount of a material in the environment, specifically air, water, or soil. To picture what parts per trillion (ppt) might look like, it can be compared to one drop of food coloring in 18 million gallons of water. If you have an open wound or an internal injury, they are able to detect it before you even notice it, and because they are instinct-driven, they will be focused on cleaning it.

Additionally, as dogs use their noses to discover the area around them, there are even certain breeds that are able to sniff out internal issues, like certain types of cancers and viruses, and will lick the affected areas. However, in cases like this, your dog’s behavior will be unlike its normal behavior and they may become obsessed with licking or pawing the area.


As you can see, there is a reason why your dog may lick your wound. It is only natural for them to want to come up to you and do so. While it is okay for a short time, ideally, you should seek professional medical advice. This is just another reason why a dog is one of the most faithful companions that you could ever have.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Kazlova Iryna/

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About the Author

Justin Zipprich is a writer at A-Z Animals, where his primary focus is travel, state facts, pets, and mammals. Justin has been writing and editing animal content for over 7 years, though he holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Instructional Technology from Western Illinois University, which he earned in 2005. As a resident of Texas, he loves discovering local animals and spending time with his wife and two kids.

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