The Truth About Dog Kissing: How Dirty Is a Dog’s Mouth?

Aren’t dog kisses the best? You can walk away with slightly damp cheeks or a full-on dripping face … but so worth it. A dog’s love is unconditional, and a dog kiss is merely one way they show affection for their humans. While the slobbery sweet nothings are hard to resist, you might want to rethink kissing dogs. 

Let’s face it: We are oh-so cautious when kissing people (especially those we don’t know), but when it comes to dog kisses, it’s game on. Here’s why you should be a bit pickier about your dog’s mouth.

How Dirty is a Dog’s Mouth?

Is it safe to kiss your dog? That depends. While it may seem harmless, experts warn that your pet has several bad habits that could spell trouble. 

Take a look at how busy your dog’s mouth is; one minute he’s slurping up dirt in the backyard, the next minute he’s licking his genitals. Some dogs top it off by consuming a pile of feces, all before they come and plant a sweet kiss on your mouth. Of course, the old wive’s tale has many believing a dog’s mouth is more sanitary than a human’s. The truth is your pet’s mouth isn’t exactly hygienic.

Related: Why do dogs eat poop? Read “Weird Things Dogs Do and What They Mean.”

Not worried about your dog kissing your face or kissing dogs on the mouth? Although most of the bacteria in your pet’s mouth is harmless, research shows a dog’s mouth harbors a host of bacteria, viruses, and yeast. 

Some bacteria are zoonotic, which means they can be passed from animal to humans and potentially cause disease. You’ve most likely heard of a few zoonotic bacteria such as clostridium, E. coli, and salmonella, plus the lesser-known Campylobacter. Dogs can pick these organisms up from eating animal waste or drinking contaminated water (think a pond or stream).

If that’s not enough, dogs can carry parasites (Giardia, cryptosporidium, and hookworm) that can cause diarrhea and intestinal upset. Dogs can further pass on ringworm which can lead to a skin rash.

Is It OK to Kiss Your Dog? 

Still asking, can I kiss my dog? Or, can I kiss my dog on the lips? Experts report that although your pet’s mouth is teeming with several organisms, it is unlikely that your dog’s saliva will cause problems when it comes in contact with your skin. However, the mucus membranes in your mouth and nose can easily absorb your dog’s saliva and its pathogens. Does this mean you can get sick from a dog licking your mouth? Experts note this type of transmission is rare, but they recommend avoiding your dog’s kisses in those areas.

Some people, like babies, may be at greater risk of getting sick from dog kisses. Although it’s cute to see a dog lick a baby, infants lack a fully developed immune system and cannot fight off potentially dangerous pathogens. Immunocompromised individuals, including pregnant women, the elderly, diabetics, and those with an open sore on their face, can also fall to the nasties in a dog’s mouth. 

Tips for Safer Dog Kisses

All hope is not lost! You’re probably still wondering should I let my dog lick my face? Yes, take a few precautions, and you can continue to receive endless doggy kisses. Here are a few tips that can help ensure your puppy love doesn’t end with you getting sick.

  • Keep your pet’s vaccines current.
  • Consider kissing your dog on the head to show your affection.
  • Keep your pets away from animal feces.
  • Make sure new dogs go through deworming.
  • Regularly wash your hands with soap and water.
  • Avoid any dog kisses on the face if you have a weak immune system or have an open sore on your face.
  • You can always offer your dog a few healthy treats when he comes in for kisses, and let him kiss your hand instead of your face.

Be sure to brush your dog’s teeth regularly. This important grooming step can help reduce bacteria responsible for tartar and plaque buildup and at least make your dog’s breath fresher when he loves up on you.

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