Is it Dangerous to Let Your Puppy Lick Your Face?

dog-lick-faceThat feeling when you meet a new dog, and it’s all like and I’m all YAAAAAS LOVE MEEEE!

Is that gross?

Greetings canine connoisseurs, dog devotees, puppy pundits!! Although cats are the most popular pet in the US, outnumbering dogs by around 8 million, there are about 12 million more households with dogs, presumably because crazy cat ladies. Humans who live with animals are affected by the animal’s microbiome. But what about when those pups try and lick your face? GROSS. Or, is it? What exactly should I be feeling? I’m so conflicted.

First, there is a myth out there that dog’s mouths are cleaner than a human’s. This is not true. Both humans and dogs mouths contain bacteria, lots of it. And there’s really no way to compare directly, because while they are both mouths, they’re completely different environments!

Studies of the bacteria of dogs mouths have found hundreds of species of bacteria, with “significant” differences to human mouths. Only 16 percent of dog oral microbiota overlaps with humans. Another study in the Archives of Oral Biology, says there are definitely harmful pathogens in your pup’s face-hole! A separate study in PlosOne from 2015, found that oral-to-oral transfers of bacteria from dogs to owners can cause gingivitis and periodontal disease!

P. gulae, for example, can cause inflamed gums and even tooth loss…it’s super rare in humans, but common in dogs, and 16 percent of owners had it! There’re even some bacteria in dogs mouths which are antibiotic resistant, meaning if it were to spread to humans, we would have trouble treating it. On top of all that, if you have a cut in your mouth, or some bleeding gums from basic gingivitis, bacteria from your dog’s tongue could enter that open wound, and spread infections deeper into your body.

We do have some natural defenses, though. Both human and dog saliva have antibacterial properties. They’re basic, but play a part in wound-licking. That doesn’t mean you should let your pet lick your wound, though. Case studies have found infections from another mouth bacteria in animals called Pasteurella can result. A pasteurella infection can be treated with antibiotics, but can also be dangerous as it opens the way for more serious infections.

So, the thing is, yes; face licking can be gross… but there’s not actually a ton of danger from infectious bacteria. They ARE there, so being skeezed-out at the idea of swapping saliva with a dog is probably warranted. But sources are quick to say; both mouths contain tons of bacteria. Plus, PET LOVERS: INFECTION GOES BOTH WAYS. You don’t want to infect your dog with YOUR dirty mouth do you?! To be honest, you’re more likely to catch an infection by swapping saliva with another human than with a dog, but just to be safe… you know… the more you know the better. You do you, but think about where you put your mouth, and if you’re a kid or elderly, you’re even more susceptible to infection.

In the end, the Centers for Disease Control recommends anytime you ever come in contact with any dog you wash your hands afterward. Maybe splash a little soapy water on your face if you’re getting puppy kisses too.

What do you think? Do you let dogs lick your face? Share ice cream with you? Let us know in comments below.

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