Werewolves are a pop culture phenomenon, but doggie vampires are rarely heard of. When it comes to dogs and blood, the reality is often scarier than fiction. The thought of your dog licking blood may make your skin crawl. You may see images of a maneater, or worry that your dog will get sick. You are probably wondering why dogs lick blood, and should you be concerned? 

Why do dogs lick blood?

Dogs lick blood for a few reasons. The most common one is instinct. You could say that it’s in their blood to lick blood! In most cases, dogs are actually tending a wound, and not displaying their thirst for life juice. 

Instinct

When it comes to wound licking, it’s instinctual for dogs. Most other animals have the same instinct, including humans. It’s considered taboo, so you aren’t likely to see someone openly licking a wound on their arm. However, if you cut your finger, you may stick it in your mouth without even thinking about it. 

Wound licking is beneficial, particularly for dogs in the wild. They don’t have arms or access to first aid kits. Licking allows them to remove dirt and debris and cleanse the wound. 

The History of Wound Licking

Dogs licking the wounds of humans goes back to ancient Egypt. You may have heard of the dog-headed Egyptian God Anubis. In ancient times, the city of Hardai became known as Cynopolis, which translates to City of the Dogs. 

They had temples devoted to Anubis and would sacrifice dogs. However, they also used them for healing. People sought out dogs to lick their wounds because they believed they had healing properties. 

The practice continued in Ancient Greece. Temples dedicated to Asclepius, the Greek God of medicine and healing, often had dogs. These dogs were trained to lick wounds. 

Health Benefits of Wound Licking

You’ve probably heard that a dog’s saliva has healing properties, and that allowing them to lick a wound can speed healing. You’ve certainly heard that this practice is dangerous, because dog’s mouths can be full of nasty bacteria. It turns out both things are true to an extent. 

Saliva contains histatins. These antimicrobial compounds help heal infections. They also encourage skin cells to close a wound quickly. This is why a wound in your mouth will heal more quickly than wounds in other areas. 

Saliva also contains Nerve Growth Factor, or NGF. Studies have revealed that application of NGF through wound licking will allow a wound to heal twice as fast as it would without licking. 

Bacteria in the Mouth

When it comes to a dog’s ability to provide first aid, the news isn’t all good. A dog’s mouth can contain some dangerous bacteria that can be deadly if an infection isn’t treated quickly. 

This bacteria can live in the dog’s mouth without causing any harm. However, when it’s placed inside a wound, it can grow and cause a serious infection. 

Before you declare your dog’s mouth a hazard zone, you should know that these bacteria can also be present in the mouths of humans. It’s rare to get an infection through wound licking, but it does occur. 

Likes the Taste

Of course, you can’t overlook the possibility that dogs like the taste of blood. In addition to the more altruistic reasons for licking blood, it likely tastes good to them as well. 

Dogs aren’t alone in enjoying the taste of blood. Blood sausage is a delicacy in many parts of the world. Although it tastes much different from blood by itself, it certainly has a mild blood flavor. Rare steak can also have a mild blood flavor. 

It’s impossible to know exactly what blood tastes like to dogs, but we can make an educated guess. It has components of sweet and salty, which are flavors dogs enjoy. The metallic taste is similar to that of liver or kidneys, which dogs will happily chow down on. 

Why does my dog lick their own blood?

When a dog is bleeding, the first thing they do is begin to lick it. It’s natural to wonder why your dog is so fascinated with their own blood. It isn’t restricted to wounds either. Female dogs often lick the blood off the puppies and the area where they gave birth. 

Speeds Healing

Licking speeds healing for dog’s wounds just as it does for humans. They’ve evolved to lick their wounds as a way to clean them and reduce healing time. 

Pain Relief

Dogs lick their own injuries because it releases their natural painkillers. Both dogs and humans have endorphins, which are released when we experience pain. These endorphins can make us feel happy, but they also reduce pain. 

A runner’s high occurs because the exertion and pain of running causes the body to release large amounts of endorphins. Hot sauce can have a similar effect, according to many pepper heads. 

If you hit your knee on the table, you’ll lean down and rub it instinctively. This is because the action releases endorphins. When a dog licks their wound, it also releases endorphins. 

Predator Prevention

Predator prevention is another reason why dogs lick their blood. In the wild, blood will quickly draw a predator. Predators will target animals that are injured or sick, because they are easier to kill.  

Dogs developed an instinct to lick blood not only from their wounds, but from the area where they live for this reason. This is also why a female will lick the blood from the birthing area after giving birth. 

Why does my dog lick human blood?

Why does your dog lick your blood? Are they secretly binging Twilight, or is it simply nature at work? 

Healing and Cleaning

Your dog will lick your wound as a way to help it heal. Dogs don’t have the ability to clean a wound the same way we do. Instead, they lick the wound in the same way we would wash it and apply antibiotic cream. 

If your dog is licking your bloody wound, it’s actually their way of keeping you healthy. 

Interested in the Smell of the Wound

Your dog may be getting up close and personal with your wound because they are smelling it. It’s not necessarily the smell of blood that has their interest, at least not the way we think of it. 

Dogs are able to smell volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. Dogs can detect infection, high blood sugar, and even cancer because of the VOCs the body gives off when in these states. 

It’s possible that your dog is actually checking your health, as well as ensuring that the wound stays clean. 

Blood In Living Area

Dogs will happily lick a wound, but they will also lick up any blood they find in their living area. This is because of their instinct to avoid predators. They want to not only keep themselves safe from potential predators, but their humans as well. 

In their mind, you are a member of the pack. Licking your blood shows that they want to make sure you are safe from any dangerous animals who might catch the scent of your blood. 

Can A Dog Get the Taste of Human Blood? 

You may have heard that once a dog gets a taste of human blood, it becomes dangerous. You are no longer a member of the pack. Instead, you suddenly become a meal in the eyes of your dog. 

This is utter foolishness. Dogs lick each other’s wounds as well, but they don’t start viewing their canine companions as a tasty snack. 

However, the behavior does seem to have some basis when it comes to big cats. This may be where the myth originated. 

Why does my dog lick other dog’s blood?

Essentially, dogs lick each other’s blood for the same reasons they lick human blood. It’s their way of taking care of the pack. 

Social/Grooming

Grooming is a social act for dogs. When you watch a dog licking another dog, or biting at their fleas, it’s a sign they care for each other. It’s the human equivalent of brushing your child’s hair.In addition to the practical aspect, it strengthens the bond between parent and child. 

Wound Healing

Of course, a dog’s saliva does have some healing properties. They will lick another dog’s blood as a way to help them heal and remain healthy. 

Predator Prevention

Again, predator prevention is an important drive. How much of it is altruistic is hard to determine. Regardless, we know that dogs keep their living area free of blood so they don’t draw predators. 

How to discourage a dog from licking blood?

Dog saliva may have healing properties, but that doesn’t mean you want your pooch to lick your cut. It can also be disconcerting and concerning to watch your dog lap up a pool of blood you find on your walk. How do you prevent them from a bloody snack?

Their Blood 

If your dog is licking their own blood from a wound, there are a few things you can do. The most effective is an e-collar. This prevents the dog from reaching the area they want to lick. Of course, the collar is notorious among dogs and owners, because it restricts the dog’s ability to groom themselves as well. 

Another option is a bandage. If your dog isn’t very committed to licking their wound, this may be effective. 

Your blood

If your dog is attempting to lick your blood, the best way to get them to stop is to move away and ignore them. Your dog loves your attention, and will likely stop attempting to lick the blood when they realize they are being ignored.

Redirect

Redirection also works well. When your dog catches a whiff of blood, give them something else to do. Give them a toy or chewie. Take them for a walk. Give them something appropriate and interesting to do. 

Blood on the Ground 

If your dog discovers blood on the ground, the easiest thing to do is lead them away from the blood. You can also redirect them by talking, playing, or a treat. 

What to do if my dog licks blood?

Your dog licking blood can be disconcerting. You may wonder if your dog can get sick from the blood, especially if the source is unknown. 

Dog Ancestors and Raw Meals

Keep in mind that your dog’s body is equipped to handle small amounts of blood. Wolves eat their meals raw, including organs with a high blood volume or iron level, like the liver. 

Their mouths and digestive systems are designed to fight off many bacteria that would make us very sick. Can you imagine snacking on roadkill? It would probably cause you serious health issues, but your dog may be fine after consuming it. 

It’s not recommended to let your dog lick blood, but chances are they will be OK if they do. 

Blood From Unknown Source

You likely have a good idea of what’s in your blood when it comes to communicable diseases, but what if your dog licks strange blood? The odds of your dog catching a bacterial or viral infection from the blood are very low. Most blood borne diseases can’t cross species, which means if a person has HIV, your dog can’t become infected by licking the blood. 

Gastrointestinal Upset

The most common issue from a dog licking blood is gastrointestinal upset. This is typically mild. Your dog may have nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. If the stomach upset continues for more than a few hours, take them to the vet. There’s a chance they’ve ingested bacteria that is making them sick. 

Author

I created and currently manage Pet Dog Owner, the website you can go to when you have questions about your dog's behavior. It is my hope that you find Pet Dog Owner to be a helpful resource. It is also my hope that it will help you to improve your relationship with your dog. You can read more about me and my website here.