Ancient civilizations believed the dog’s saliva had magical properties and could even heal wounds. Although there is some truth behind the concept – the saliva of dogs and humans contains some antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, the whole healing thing is blown out of proportion. However, even today, some people believe dogs heal faster than humans.
Do Dogs Heal Faster Than Humans?
So, do dogs heal faster than humans? Well, contrary to popular belief, the answer is no. Dogs do not heal faster than humans. In dogs, wounds and fractures go through the same phases of healing as in people. However, it can seem that dogs are prone to faster recoveries simply because they are instinctively inclined toward hiding pain and discomfort.
Just because dogs do not heal faster than us, it does not mean there are no ways to speed up the recovery and make the process smoother and more comfortable.
This article will explain how wounds and fractures in dogs heal and what you can do to comfort your dog during recovery.
How do dogs and human wounds heal?
All wounds (dog or human) go through the same stages of healing.
During the first stage, the body calls for backup, which activates the immune system and triggers inflammation. The five cornerstones of inflammation are:
- Loss of function.
During the inflammation phase, you need to keep an eye on these common but abnormal complications:
- High fever
- Excessive bleeding
- Bad smell
- Red streaks.
In a normal healing wound, the inflammation should subside in about a week.
Debridement refers to the process of removing dead cells, tissues, and bacteria from the wound and setting the stage for repair.
There are three forms of debridement:
- Autolytic – occurs when the blood cells soften and liquefy the damaged cells and tissues. This selective debridement aims only at damaged cells and is painless.
- Surgical – occurs when the visibly damaged tissues are surgically removed. This form is less selective than the autolytic because it is based on visible changes, and sometimes when the damage is on a cellular level, the visible damage signs might be absent.
- Mechanical – this form has been used in the past, but today is not practiced because it can prolong healing.
The third repair phase is much more subtle compared to the inflammation and debridement phases. During this phase, if there are no infections and complications, the cells begin to grow and rebuild the damaged tissues.
Based on the repair nature, there are two types of healing:
- Primary intention – occurs after surgery when the skin from both wound margins can be fused together.
- Secondary intention – when the damaged area is too big, and the skin edges cannot be fused together. In these cases, the healing occurs under a crust.
During the previous phase, the dog’s body deposits copious amounts of collagen into the wound site. The collagen will help the healing but gives an overall disorganized and lumpy appearance.
During the maturation phase, the collage starts reabsorbing water and re-organizing, making the scar look thinner but stronger.
You should note that scars rarely disappear entirely, and the injured place in ideal cases regains around 85% of its pre-injury strength and resilience.
How to heal a dog wound fast?
You can help your dog’s wound heal faster by protecting the naturally occurring new skin layers and keeping the wound clean and moist.
There are two main steps to promote faster wound healing.
You can easily keep the wound clean and moist by using a non-toxic antimicrobial spray. Usually, you can use the spray between three to four times per day.
Before applying the spray, make sure the wound is free from debris – hair, dirt, blood, or pus as these particles can cause an infection and prolong the healing.
Your vet will recommend the ideal spray type for your dog. The vet will also explain how to use the spray and for how long.
Once the wound is clean, you can apply a cooling, antimicrobial hydrogel. The hydrogel will ward off infections while keeping the wound clean, cool, and moist.
Moisture is vital as it promotes better blood flow and blood flow is necessary for healing.
Just like with the spray, you need to adhere to the vet’s guidelines.
How to speed up the dog’s healing after surgery?
There is no one-timeline-fits-all when it comes to healing after surgery. All dogs heal at different rates and based on many factors like age, overall health, fitness level and conditioning, and type of surgical procedure.
When the superficial incision wound heals and the redness and swelling are gone, it does not mean that the healing process is over. The deeper tissues take more time to heal completely.
Here are some helpful tips on how to speed up your dog’s post-surgical recovery process.
Adhere to the vet’s instructions and medication schedules
The vet will probably prescribe several different drugs, including pain killers. Pain management is vital because pain and discomfort can prolong recovery and negatively impact healing.
After a surgical procedure, dogs are also likely to be prescribed antibiotics. Giving them on schedule and in the prescribed doses is vital for your dog’s healing.
There is no shame in wearing an E-collar
While dogs hate the unpopular cone of shame, veterinarians routinely recommend it after surgical procedures. The E-collar prevents the dog from licking, biting, and re-opening its wound.
In general, the collar will be a critical accessory for your dog for around two weeks post-surgery.
Cage rest or restricted physical activity
In all cases, the vet will advise you to keep your dog in a crate while unsupervised, limit access to stairs, and not allow jumping on and off furniture. In some cases, the vet will recommend tethering your dog.
The duration of this period depends on the procedure and the presence of potential complications.
Take proper care of the wound
You need to closely observe the incision wound and call your vet if you notice something out of the ordinary.
Common red flags include heat, swelling, redness, inflammation, bleeding, or discharge.
Clean your dog’s incision following the vet’s recommendations, and never apply any ointments unless prescribed by your vet.
Do not forget about your dog’s emotional state
Your dog might be anxious because of the physical restriction and discomfort associated with the procedure.
If your dog is panting, whining, barking, or seems restless, spend more time with it and engage in some mind-stimulating games. It is vital that you calm your dog down.
Rehabilitation therapy is imperative
This applies to dogs that have undergone orthopedic surgeries. There are many different types of physical therapy for dogs and which one is best suited depends on your dog’s need and physical abilities.
All options aim towards building stamina, strength, and balance. In some cases, the vet will recommend combining different physical therapies.
The healing powers of the dog’s saliva
As already mentioned, the dog’s saliva has some antimicrobial and healing properties.
First of all, simple mechanical tongue movements are good at removing the debris layer that accumulates over a wound. The moisture of the saliva loosens the debris, and then the tongue does the removing part.
Secondly, when the dog’s saliva comes in contact with the skin, one of its components – the nitrite transforms into nitric oxide. As a chemical compound, nitric oxide protects from bacterial infections.
The dog’s saliva also contains histatins – chemicals known for their anti-infection features. Histatins make the skin’s cells grow and cover wounds more quickly.
Finally, a group of researchers at the University of Florida at Gainesville found out that the dog’s saliva has a so-called Nerve Growth Factor – NGF. When compared to non-treated wounds, wounds treated with NGF heal twice as fast.
However, this does not mean you should let your dog lick your wounds, especially if they are deep. The dog’s saliva also contains the anaerobic bacteria – Pasteurella, which can trigger severe infections if introduced in deep wounds.
Although the healing benefits of the dog’s saliva are proven, the risk of Pasteurella infections is always present. Therefore, until further discoveries, when it comes to managing your wounds, stick to the old-fashioned water, soap, antibiotic creams, and bandage.
Healing is healing in both dogs and humans. While dogs are more likely to try to heal themselves with their antimicrobial saliva, and we are more likely to run to the nearest pharmacy, the healing phases are the same.
Thankfully, with the advances in modern veterinary medicine, today, caring for an injured dog is easier than ever. Almost every procedure available for humans is also available for dogs.
There are also advances in the area of holistic veterinary medicine and physical therapy, which significantly affect the recovery in dogs with wounds and fractures.
Finally, although your dog’s saliva can be efficient in preventing infections and promoting healing, do not rely on it – if your dog has a problem, always seek immediate veterinary attention.
Do dogs heal like humans?
Yes, the healing process is the same in both dogs and humans – same phases, same risks, and same options for improvement and speeding up the new tissue formation.
Do dogs heal faster than humans after surgery?
Although the healing process is the same in dogs and humans, dogs seem to recover much faster than humans after surgical procedures.
Usually, most soft-tissue surgeries need around two to three weeks to heal. Most of them will be completely healed in approximately six weeks.
Do dogs’ bones heal faster than humans?
Bones and ligaments need more time to heal in dogs and humans. Usually, dogs that had bone or ligament surgeries are considered 80% healed around eight to 12 weeks post-surgery.
Complete healing is usually expected to take much longer – four, five, or even more than six months.
Should I let my dog lick my wounds?
Just like your saliva, your dog’s saliva has some antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. Plus, the dog’s tongue is good at scraping debris off wounds. However, in general, letting your dog lick your wounds can do more harm than good, and there are far better wound management options than using dog saliva as treatment.
How long do dogs need to heal?
There is no universal answer to this question. The exact healing time depends on many factors – age, overall health, co-existing issues, potential complication, type of injury, and the treatment’s promptness and adequacy.