If you suffer from eczema and own a dog, you might have noticed your four-legged friend licking the affected skin area.
Why is this? What drives this behavior, and should you let your dog lick your eczema?
Why Does Your Dog Lick Your Eczema?
The most likely reasons for your dog licking your eczema are that it tastes nice, they are grooming you, or they know something is wrong and are trying to help.
Let’s look at this list in more detail:
- Your eczema tastes nice to your dog.
- They are grooming you.
- They know something is wrong and are trying to help.
1. Your Eczema Tastes Nice to Your Dog
This might sound crazy to you but let’s be honest, dogs enjoy licking many things that humans don’t!
Something about the dry skin and the scabs caused by eczema might taste delicious to your pet pooch.
2. They Are Grooming You
Dogs mutually groom each other, and dogs will often also groom humans. This is known as social grooming.
It serves a few different purposes, including hygiene, bonding, and the expression of social status.
If your dog sees eczema on your skin, it might think you need to be groomed, so they are licking it to try and clean it.
3. They Know Something is Wrong and Are Trying to Help
Dogs can smell and notice ailments in other dogs and also in humans.
They have been proven to spot illnesses ranging from cancer to the early onset of Parkinson’s disease.
It could be that when they see eczema on your body, they intuitively want to try and make it better by licking it.
Should You Let Your Dog Lick Your Eczema?
Unless you have put medication such as a cream on your skin, there is no risk to your dog if they lick your eczema; it is not infectious or dangerous to dogs.
But it is risky for you if you let them do it. The salvia could worsen your eczema, and you are also at risk of infection due to the damaged skin.
So no, you should not let your dog lick your eczema. It’s too risky, and worst-case scenario, it could make you sick.
Canine saliva has some nasty bugs. As a result, diseases and even parasites can be transmitted from pet dogs to their owners.
If you have damaged skin, in this case from your eczema, there is a significantly increased risk of infection from the bacteria in your dog’s saliva.
So you should avoid letting your dog lick your skin if there is any damage, such as a cut, scab, or rash.
Finally, the dog’s saliva may dry out or inflame your rash and thus make it more itchy and painful.
Of course, it’s up to you if you want to let them lick your eczema, but I certainly wouldn’t recommend it.
What is Eczema?
Eczema is a skin condition triggered by inflammation that causes the skin to become itchy, dry, cracked, flaky, and even scabby.
Itchiness is the most common symptom of the condition, and there are seven different types of eczema that affect humans.
If you struggle with eczema, you should always get treatment from a doctor as it can be pretty severe in some cases, and even if it is only mild, it is not pleasant to live with.
Note – You might also be interested in this post about why dogs lick psoriasis.
Why Do Dogs Lick People?
When thinking about your dog licking your eczema, it can also be interesting to think about why dogs lick humans more generally.
It might be that your dog would lick your skin even if the eczema weren’t there.
Here are some more general reasons for this type of canine behavior:
- Social grooming.
- Showing affection.
- Expressing empathy.
- Some humans have tasty skin.
- To gain attention.
In the same way, dogs engage in mutual grooming with other dogs. They also do so with humans.
So, yes. If your dog is licking you, it might be because it thinks you are unclean!
But it could also be a way of bonding with you. You can decide for yourself which it is!
Dogs will lick and nuzzle humans to express affection towards them.
While this may leave you covered in unpleasant and slimy dog saliva, at least it was well-intentioned!
Dogs are very smart. They can often tell when humans are sad, sick, or in pain.
What is even more awesome is they will often try to alleviate the suffering and express empathy by licking the person who is sad or sick.
Some Humans Have Tasty Skin
Dogs often lick humans because their skin tastes nice.
It might be that the person has just eaten some tasty food, or possibly that they have been sweating, and the dog likes the taste of the salty sweat.
To Gain Attention
Most dogs love getting attention from their owners, and they are clever enough to learn ways to get that attention.
If they try to get your attention by licking you and you respond by stroking them, they will learn to repeat this action in the future when they want to be petted.
(You might not realize it, but your dog is training you to behave in certain ways, just like you teach them).
How to Stop Your Dog From Licking Your Eczema
The easiest and most obvious way to stop your dog from licking your eczema is to stop them from being able to get close enough to it.
This could be as simple as covering the eczema rash up with clothing or not letting your dog sleep in bed with you.
However, it might not always be practical to do this, so you might need to use training to stop them from doing it.
How to Train a Dog Not to Lick Eczema
When trying to train a dog not to lick eczema (or anything else for that matter), we first need to remember that licking is a perfectly natural behavior for them.
This means it might be hard to eliminate licking entirely, and you should only try to do so with good reason.
With that said, there is a simple two-step process that should be very effective with most dogs:
- Use the “No” command to stop the licking.
- Use distraction and praise to redirect the dog’s attention.
Let’s look at each step more closely:
Training and Using the “No” Command
If you have not already trained your dog to obey the no command, you should prioritize it.
Select a behavior you want them to stop doing – in this case, licking your eczema – you need to catch them in the act of doing it, say “No” in a firm voice, and physically stop them from doing it.
For example, if your dog was licking your hand, you would pull your hand away and say the “No” command clearly and firmly.
Once they understand the “No” command for hand licking, it will be much easier to train them to understand it in a different context, such as barking or jumping up at people.
So you should work through a few different behaviors until they understand that “No” means stop what they are doing, whatever it is.
Using Distraction and Praise to Encourage A Different Behavior
After successfully using the “No” command to stop the dog from licking, you should reward and distract them.
Give them a treat, pet them, or give verbal praise, so they associate stopping with feeling good.
Then play with them, let them go outside, move them around the house, or do something similar to distract them from returning to the licking.
If you keep up with this simple two-step process, you will notice a reduction in their behavior.
Not only that, but if they do carry on with the licking, you will be able to stop them much more quickly.
Please note that if you struggle to stop your dog from licking, it may be because they are doing so due to stress, boredom, or a medical condition.
If this might be the case, you should do your best to fix the underlying cause and, if need be, take the dog to the vet to get checked out.
Final Thoughts On Why Your Dog Licks Your Eczema
The chances are that if your dog licks your eczema, it is for one of these three reasons:
- The eczema tastes nice.
- They want to groom you.
- They want to help you.
It is not dangerous for your dog to lick it unless you have put medication on it, in which case you must be very careful not to let them.
It could be dangerous for you. Germs from your dog’s saliva can infect you through the damaged skin caused by the eczema, so you shouldn’t let them lick it.
Eczema is a nasty condition, and you should get it treated if it persists.
If your dog’s licking behavior is obsessive or frantic, you should take them to a vet for a checkup as they may have an underlying health condition.
If you are struggling financially and worried about vet bills, this website lists places you can contact for help.
(If you do not live in the USA, you can use Google to search for similar help near you, there is a lot of support out there for dog owners in difficulty).
Tim is a proud, vetted, and experienced dog foster carer for a charity helping dog owners escape domestic abuse.
He has years of experience training and caring for dogs, both his own and other people’s.
He is an expert in canine behavior and is highly skilled in dealing with all dogs but specializes in the difficult ones that other people may struggle with.
When he isn’t fostering dogs, he is making friends with other people’s pups!