Department of Energy Argonne National Laboratory Office of Science NEWTON's Homepage NEWTON's Homepage
NEWTON, Ask A Scientist!
NEWTON Home Page NEWTON Teachers Visit Our Archives Ask A Question How To Ask A Question Question of the Week Our Expert Scientists Volunteer at NEWTON! Frequently Asked Questions Referencing NEWTON About NEWTON About Ask A Scientist Education At Argonne Licking and Infection
Name: Sandra S.
Status: Other
Age: 30s
Location: N/A
Country: USA
Date: 2000-2001

I have always heard that animals lick their wounds for it to heal. My concern is infection form the bacteria from their mouth. I have a horse that has a wound she doesn't want me to treat, but she licks it clean. Is this licking helping her wound or it is setting her up for infection?

Mouths are full of bacteria and other little microorganisms that can cause infection. If your horse has an open wound and you are concerned, I would consult a local veterinarian. Your vet can help you dress the wound properly, and if necessary prescribe antibiotics.

"When in doubt, consult your vet."

Saundra Sample

For the most part, the licking helps. But like anything else, licking in excess can make it worse.

There are enzymes in the saliva that can help keep it clean and even disinfect it, but the physical action of excessive licking can make the wound worse. I have seen dogs lick themselves down to bone.

So the best solution is usually to treat the wound with disinfectants and antibiotics by mouth, and avoid the licking.

Phillip Raclyn, D.V.M.

Click here to return to the Veterinary Topics Archive

NEWTON is an electronic community for Science, Math, and Computer Science K-12 Educators, sponsored and operated by Argonne National Laboratory's Educational Programs, Andrew Skipor, Ph.D., Head of Educational Programs.

For assistance with NEWTON contact a System Operator (, or at Argonne's Educational Programs

Educational Programs
Building 360
9700 S. Cass Ave.
Argonne, Illinois
60439-4845, USA
Update: June 2012
Weclome To Newton

Argonne National Laboratory