Saturday, November 10, 2012

The healing magic of canines

As featured Saturday, November 3, 2012, at

It might have escaped human notice, had it not been for the inordinate amount of attention it drew from the other dogs.
Whether he was sitting, lounging, napping or walking around the yard, they followed him everywhere he went, licking the wound on his shoulder.
And he carried on as if soothed, if not oblivious to their efforts to clean the wound.
Antibiotics were administered and the wound cleaned and bandaged, but it wasn’t long before the other dogs managed to remove the bandage and take on the job of doctoring again.
Several days of redoing the bandaging and it became clear that short of isolating the poor boy, they just weren’t going to leave things alone.
Interestingly enough, however, on inspection the wound appeared clean, and infection free with signs of healthy healing — and with all the exposure it had to wind, dirt and the like, it was hard to say if it was the iodine rinses and medicine that were doing the trick, or if it might be the non-stop attention of the canine caretakers.
Wound licking by animals is common enough and in a way it makes perfect sense, after all, it’s not as if they have washcloths, gauze and boiled water at their disposal.
Yet historically, dogs hold a special recognition for their medical prowess, and once upon a time, mankind believed strongly in the magical properties of a dog’s lick,
Found throughout lore and myth are stories of dogs healing by licking the injured or dying.
Early doctors even tried to harness the power, including dogs trained to lick the wounds of patients among hospital staff in ancient Greece.
In modern times, there are still cultures which rely on the healing tongues of dogs, and the old wives tale that dog saliva contains antiseptic remains widely believed by many.
However, even though it seems a little farfetched, it’s not all poppycock.
The saliva of a dog, while not entirely magical, is a little special.
With a high PH level and containing enzymes and substances that prevent the growth of bacteria, a dog’s saliva does have some qualities that help counter the not-so-hygienic passions and pastimes of dogs.
It's true enough, that perhaps it would be worth bottling and marketing — if it were that simple.
But it’s the other stuff mixed in there that begins to unravel the myths.
While canine saliva probably does help protect a pooch from the nasties that find their way into their mouths and also helps maintain a level of dental health, the mouth of a dog is a real yin-yang kind of environment.
Of course it’s a little difficult to convince a wounded dog that they should refrain from using the one medical tool nature gave them.
And sometimes they probably are doing more good than bad.
With constant cleaning, they can keep a wound moist, free of material and in some cases, the composition of their saliva may be just what the doctor ordered.
But much like spinning one bullet in the chamber of an otherwise empty revolver — it only takes one little bit of bacteria to change the landscape dramatically.
And while most of the time, dogs do fine, when it comes to the wounds of other species, particularly humans, the risk is enough to keep dogs out of the pharmaceutical business.
However, while it can’t be found under a microscope, it’s well proven that a big slobbery kiss from your favorite pooch does contain magic that wipe away most any pain.

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