SlimDoggy Mythbuster | Do Dogs Lick to Heal Themselves?

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bustamythToday we are looking at the common belief that a dog will lick a wound in order to heal it and that it actually helps heal a wound. Well, truth be told, that’s not a total myth. A dog will lick a cut and in doing so he may help to keep it clean and free from dirt. In that respect it may be helping the wound to heal. But licking can also be a sign of trouble, especially when it takes on an obsessive characteristic.
Let’s look at when licking behavior is a good thing, and when it is a bad thing:
Good licking:

  1. Our Becca had very bad arthritis in her paws and I knew when she started licking her paws they were bothering her and I could increase her arthritis pain medication to give her some relief.
  2. When Jack started licking his private parts (obsessively) I knew something was going on and sure enough, we determined he was developing Hormone-responsive incontinence – fairly common in seniors – but easily treated with a low levels of medication.

Bad licking:

  1. Dogs with skin allergies or other irritations caused by an underlying illness may exhibit symptoms in the form of itching, but also of licking and they may lick their paws or limbs or wherever they can reach excessively.
  2. A dog left alone all day or not given enough mental stimulation may lick excessively from boredom or anxiety – think of it like people who bite their nails.
  3. Dogs will also chew, scratch and lick when suffering from parasites.

In order to determine the root cause of your dog’s licking, you have to do a little detective work, but once you know, it can be easily addressed.
Additional Reading

Why Dogs Lick, Dogs that Lick, Ask Victoria Stilwell
Dogs and Compulsive Scratching, Licking, and Chewing


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  1. For a hot minute Harley was gnawing at his paws, but just as I was getting concerned, he stopped. I talked with the Doodle Doc and she said it was probably skin allergies. I’ve got my eyes on him though, if he starts again, off to the vet we go!

  2. My cat Raven recently licked her lower belly bare. She was having bowel health issues and now that we have her regulated, her tummy fur is growing back. Licking can be a good indicator that something (medical or behavioral) needs checking into.

  3. I lick myself when I am nervous and often get that no lick command so I stop.
    Emma recently posted…Halloween At The Garden CenterMy Profile

  4. What perfect timing! Maggie over-did-it jumping in the leaves yesterday and has since been licking her leg that has dysplasia. Perfect excuse for cuddling with mom today on the couch. Great post, so important to really keen in on the licking and then figuring out why.
    Miley’s Daily Scoop recently posted…Digging Up MischiefMy Profile

  5. Poor Callie’s been trying to lick at her left knee these last several days. I guess the healing process around the internal stitches (from her ACL surgery) is making her itch like crazy. Poor dog!!
    Callie, Shadow, and Ducky’s Mom recently posted…WTF?! Ducky, Part 2My Profile

  6. It’s actually a big help for noticing cuts or discomfort that I might have not picked up on otherwise. But as you said, it’s no magical salve.

  7. Such an important post, because linking can let us know if something is right or wrong with our dogs. Our adult dogs lick their joints and I know that they need some pain medication. Sydney licks her tummy when her rash (from grass) flares up. And, lately, Rodrigo has been licking his butt and that let me know he had an infection in his anal glands (cleared up now).
    Kimberly Gauthier recently posted…What To Do When Your Dog Alerts to a GhostMy Profile

  8. And dogs can create problems with their licking, like when they form hotspots and lick granulomas. I wonder how many people miss out on their dog’s suffering because they believe this myth.

    Great post.
    Pamela recently posted…Why Does My Dog Look So Sad?My Profile

  9. I think Tucker licks when he’s bored. But I always check when he licks. Often that’s the way I find a tick, or a new scratch or bump; Tucker plays hard.

    Wags (and purrs) from Life with Dogs and Cats.
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  10. Sheba licks her front paws sometimes, but I’ve never been able to determine exactly why. I wonder if it’s the arthritis? I’ll have to pay more attention to when she does it….like is it just after coming inside from playing fetch? That might be a clue that she’s a little sore from the activity.
    Jan K recently posted…Three Days of Happy (Day 3) – Our Baby Boy Luke Turns 1!My Profile

  11. Great post, not all licking is good. Kilo isn’t much of a licker, but he will give pug kisses here and there.

  12. I think that is something that I have heard my entire life. I always check the spot were mine lick to see if it’s anything that needs tending.
    M. K. Clinton recently posted…BFTB Channel 7 NETWoof News for 10/27/2014My Profile

  13. Allergy irritation seems to be a common reason for licking in our house. I know that if they start licking their joints more than usual, something must be messing with their system. Then it’s time to play detective to figure it out!
    It’s Dog or Nothing recently posted…Canine Good CitizenMy Profile

  14. Totally agree with Pamela. I suspect too many people believe that myth.
    Sue recently posted…A Talking Dogs Ghost Story | Monday MischiefMy Profile

  15. Great tips! Mom didn’t realize there was good licking, since I am one of those obsessive paw lickers (allergies). Mom knows its time for a pill if I don’t stop licking. But I did lick a spot raw on my tummy resulting in the Cone of Shame, but it wasn’t a hot spot. Love Dolly
    Dolly the Doxie recently posted…Halloween Mischief Equals Danger for DogsMy Profile

  16. That’s so interesting, luckily I’m not a bad licker, but it’s something to definitely watch out for
    Misaki recently posted…Sword dancing!My Profile

  17. Very good post!
    Rama’s Mama recently posted…Monday Mischief–Bath DayMy Profile

  18. Helpful post! My sis’s last pup started doing a lot of the “bad” licking on his feet. Turned out he’d developed an allergy to peanut butter.
    Jackie Bouchard recently posted…Is She Gonna Make Us An Offer We Can’t Refuse?My Profile

  19. Lexus sometimes gets into a weird licking behavior. I am pretty sure she has a slight anxiety issue, and we are looking at it with out vet soon. She isn’t too bad or anything, but I have noticed excessive licking and a few other red flags as well.
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!
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  20. Definitely don’t want the bad licking!
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  21. Leroy’s a licker and just recently Sherman has become a licker of Leroy. It’s like he’s trying to clean him up and nurse him back to health. It’s cute but gross.

  22. small amount of licking is good for them to clean themselves but constant may mean a problem. So many dogs suffer from allergies and this is one tall tell sign they have them. licking their paws. You can tell by the brown on the paws, it’s from the protein in the saliva that turns the fur brown.
    Sand Spring Chesapeakes recently posted…Wordless Wednesday~My New Fur FriendMy Profile

  23. Cool info guys! 🙂

    I normally lick my paws after I’ve had coconut oil to check I haven’t missed any! 🙂

    I hope you’re having a fun day,

    Your pal Snoopy 🙂
    snoopy recently posted…Monday Mischief – Too TiredMy Profile

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