It pours down like a gentle summer rain, only it's not quite as refreshing; it's the string of drool hanging from your doggy pal's mouth. Dog drool is available in mass quantities, and is seemingly as endless as a handkerchief pulled from a magician's pocket. Many believe the renewable resource known as doggy drool can kill germs and heal wounds.
The Makeup of Saliva
There is little scientific research to support the healing power of dog saliva. Meno Oudhoff of the University of Amsterdam identified simple proteins called histatins in the saliva of humans. These proteins have been shown to prompt skin healing, allowing a wound to close more quickly. Equally as compelling are the findings of clinical pharmacologist Dr. Nigel Benjamin, whose research demonstrated that when saliva comes into contact with skin, the nitrite in saliva converts to nitric oxide, which may prevent bacterial infections in wounds. Despite these studies, there is no scientific proof that dog's saliva kills infections, bacteria, or has magical healing powers. Perhaps Melissa Valiant of HellaWella said it best. "If dogs' saliva was a safe and effective way to treat a cut, it probably would have been bottled up by some big pharmaceutical company by now."
The Act of Cleaning
Many have debated over the healing power of dog drool, but the action of a dog's tongue may be beneficial in wound care. The rough skin of a dog's tongue can help in the removal and loosening of dirt and debris, which are culprits in allowing infection to begin. The licking of the wound also removes dead skin cells and increases blood flow to the afflicted area.
Every argument has two sides, and the debate over the healing power of dog drool is no exception. While dog drool may contain antibodies similar to that of human saliva, and the cleansing of the wound by the dog's rough tongue may aid in healing, the downside is the bacteria that may be introduced into the wound when contact is made between the injury and the dog's mouth. A dog's mouth contains the bacteria pasteurella. When this bacteria is introduced into the wound, infection may set in. An untreated infection, especially in the hands or feet may result in complications and damage to both tendons and bones.
Unless you're injured in a remote area with only your dog at your side, the best course of action is to seek immediate treatment for any cut or scratch. The argument of the benefits of dog drool may rage on, but allowing Fido to be your primary care provider may leave you with little more than a best friend and a raging infection.
- Psychology Today Canine Corner; Stanley Coren, PhD: Can Dogs Help Humans Heal
- PetMD; Dr. Patty Khuly: Should We Let Pets Clean Their Own Wounds
- The FASEB Journal; Meno J. Oudhoff, Jan G.M. Bolsher, Kamran Nazmi, Hakan Kalay, Wim van 't Hof, Arie V. Nieuw Amerongen andEnno C. I. Veerman: Histatins are the Major Wound-Closure Stimulating Factors in Human Saliva as identified in a cell culture assay
- HellaWella: Fact or Myth: Dog Saliva Has Healing Powers