Why Do Dogs Lick People?
Why Do Dogs Lick People?

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Why Do Dogs Lick People?

There’s no doubt dogs are affectionate creatures. And they have numerous ways of showing it. So what’s the deal when your furry friend comes up and gives you a big ol’ pooch smooch? Let’s take a tongue-in-cheek look into why.

 

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You taste great … or at least interesting

Dogs are oral creatures and gather a lot of information about their surroundings through taste and smell. Maybe you’re salty after a sweaty run. Maybe you’ve got barbecue sauce on your face. “Dogs can smell a lot better than we can,” says Opens a new windowDr. Jo Gale, BVetMed CertLAS MRCVS, Senior Manager, Global Science Advocacy at Waltham Petcare Science Institute, “so they find a lot more things interesting to lick than we can.” This despite the fact dogs only have about 1,700 taste buds compared to around 9,000 in humans.

 

 

Why do dogs lick your face?

In a poll* of dog owners, IAMS™ found a large majority (75%) believe dogs lick people to offer friendliness. That’s definitely a correct assumption. Licking has been a social behavior among dogs since the days of great-great-great granddaddy wolf. "It’s a standard canine greeting to lick others around the face,” agrees Opens a new windowJames Serpell, B.S., Ph.D., Professor of Humane Ethics & Animal Welfare at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine. “Junior members of the pack will run around and lick the mouths of more senior members.” Your dog considers you part of their pack, so it’s their way of greeting and welcoming you. Or maybe you still have that barbecue sauce on your face.

 

 

Why do dogs lick your wounds?

In ancient Greece, dogs at the shrine of Asclepius were trained to lick patients. In the Middle Ages, Saint Roch was said to have been cured of a plague of sores through his dog’s licks. The French even have a saying, “langue de chien, langue de médecin,” which translates to, “a dog’s tongue, a doctor’s tongue.”

 

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Don’t cancel your health insurance just yet. While dogs’ saliva does have some possible bactericidal properties against some types of bacteria, it can put you at the risk of exposure to others. Too much licking can also reopen the wound and cause further infection. With modern medicine, you’re much better off hitting the first-aid kit.

And that myth about dogs’ mouths being cleaner than humans’? Not true — both contain over 600 types of bacteria. You’re welcome for that image.

 

 

How to handle a dog that licks too much

While an occasional canine kiss is “aww”-inducing, some dogs can overdo it to the point of annoyance. When this happens, the best thing to do is “completely ignore it and give no attention,” suggests Dr. Jo Gale. “When they stop, provide them with attention.” Over time your dog will learn to scale back on the smooches.
 

*Surveyed U.S. dog owners, age 18+ 

Sample Size: n=201 

Fielded May 8-10, 2020

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  • Recognizing the Signs of Bloat in Your Dog
    Recognizing the Signs of Bloat in Your Dog

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    Recognizing the Signs of Bloat in Your Dog

    What Is Bloat?

    Bloat is a life-threatening condition that acts rapidly and can lead to death within hours if not recognized and treated immediately. Unfortunately, the cause of bloat remains unknown at this time.

     

    The scientific term for bloat is gastric dilatation-volvulus or GDV. Bloat is characterized by rapid and abnormal expansion of the stomach with gas (dilatation). This can be followed by rotation of the stomach (volvulus). This rotation closes both the entry to and exit from the stomach. The blood vessels also are closed down, and blood flow is restricted.

     

    What follows is an increase in pressure inside the stomach and compression of the surrounding organs. Eventually, shock will occur as a result of the restricted blood flow. Here are a few key facts about bloat:

    • Bloat should always be treated as a medical emergency.
    • Bloat can kill a dog within hours after onset.
    • The cause of bloat is unknown.
    • Bloat affects 36,000 dogs in the United States each year; 30% die as a result of this condition.
    • Bloat can occur in dogs of any age.
    • Certain breeds are more susceptible to bloat, particularly deep-chested dogs.
    • The stomach rapidly expands with gas then rotates on the long axis. Entry to and exit from the stomach is prohibited, causing blood vessels to close and restriction of blood flow.

     

     

    Signs of Bloat

    Bloat is a true medical emergency, and early identification and treatment is critical to survival.

     

    In the early stages of bloat, the dog will be very uncomfortable. You might see him pacing and whining or trying unsuccessfully to get into a comfortable position. He might seem anxious, might lick or keep staring at his stomach, and might attempt to vomit, without success.

     

    Other indications of bloat can include weakness, swelling of the abdomen, and even signs of shock. Signs of shock are increased heart rate and abnormally rapid breathing.

     

    If you notice these signs, call your veterinarian immediately!

     

    • Whining
    • Inability to get comfortable
    • Pacing or restlessness
    • Pale gums
    • Unproductive attempts to vomit
    • Abnormally rapid breathing
    • Increased heart rate
    • Anxiety
    • Pain, weakness
    • Swelling of the abdomen (particularly the left side)

     

     

    Helping Prevent Bloat

    These suggestions could help you prevent bloat in your dog. However, they are based on suspected risk factors and are not guaranteed to prevent the onset of bloat.

     

    • Feed small amounts of food frequently, two to three times daily.
    • Avoid exercise for one hour before and two hours after meals.
    • Don't let your dog drink large amounts of water just before or after eating or exercise.
    • If you have two or more dogs, feed them separately to avoid rapid, stressful eating.
    • If possible, feed at times when after-feeding behavior can be observed.
    • Avoid abrupt diet changes.
    • If you see signs of bloat, call your veterinarian immediately.

     

     

    Digestible Foods

    Another way you might help prevent bloat is to feed a high-quality, highly digestible food with normal fiber levels.

     

    Feeding management offers the best method available for reducing risk until the exact cause of bloat can be identified. Although not 100% effective, these measures can reduce the number of dogs that face this serious, life-threatening condition.

     

     

    High-Risk Breeds

    • German Shepherd
    • Bouvier de Flandres
    • Great Dane
    • Boxer
    • St. Bernard
    • Doberman Pinscher
    • Bloodhound
    • German Shorthaired Pointer
    • Irish Setter
    • Gordon Setter
    • Borzoi
    • Irish Wolfhound
    • Dachshund
    • Labrador Retriever
    • Basset Hound

    Recognizing the Signs of Bloat in Your Dog
    Recognizing the Signs of Bloat in Your Dog
    Recognizing the Signs of Bloat in Your Dog
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