Of course my dog kisses me. Why do you ask?
Why you shouldn’t make out with your dog. It seems harmless enough. You get nose to nose with your dog and talk to it as it licks your face, or he’s lying there looking cuter than any other dog and you just have to kiss that face.
It may feel like the ultimate display of affection, but when it comes to such kisses experts caution: Beware of dogs.
What’s the harm?
Dr. Neilanjan Nandi of Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia said that most animals’ mouths are host to “an enormous oral microbiome of bacteria, viruses and yeast.”
Dr. Nandi states a dog’s saliva has proteins that may help cleanse or heal its own wounds, but there are some organisms unique to dogs that we were simply not meant to tolerate or combat.
Some bacteria in dogs’ mouths are zoonotic, meaning they can be passed to humans and cause disease. These include clostridium, E. coli, salmonella, and campylobacter, which can cause severe gastrointestinal disease in humans.
So I shouldn’t let my dog lick me at all?
Ask most doctors and I’m sure they will tell you to never let a dog lick your face. But really, how bad could it be?
Well, I’ve been told that if a person is not immune compromised, and dog saliva touches healthy skin, it is unlikely to cause any problems. However, a dog’s saliva and pathogens can be absorbed more easily through the mucous membranes of a person’s nose, mouth and eyes so stop French kissing your dog. And, think about this: Dogs spend half of their life with their noses to the ground or hovering over dog droppings. Now picture those kissable noses covered in bacteria, viruses, and germs of all kinds. Ewww.
Here’s where I worry about children.
There are other illnesses that can be transmitted by dogs such as hookworms and roundworms. They are transmitted in a practice called coprophagia, in which animals ingest one another’s stool or by licking each others backsides.
One study by the American Veterinary Medical Association calculated that a puppy could have as many as 30 million roundworm eggs in its intestinal tract in one week. Roundworm in children is very dangerous and can cause blindness. Now, don’t panic; just be sure kids wash their hands after handling a dog because you know those fingers are going to end up in their mouths.
What about cats?
Cats are finicky eaters so they don’t dine on feces. Humans are therefore unlikely to become infected by parasites from them. Cats’ mouths do harbor Pasteurella, which can cause infections of the skin and lymph node, and Bartonella henselae, a bacterium that can cause a severe skin and lymph node infection known as cat scratch fever, but these infections are rare and come from bites or scratches.
I’m going to let them kiss me anyway so what precautions should I take?
- Make sure your pet is current on all vaccines.
- Have your vet do yearly fecal tests on your pets and deworm all new arrivals.
- Keep your dogs away from the feces of other animals.
- Wash your hands regularly with soap and water. This is especially important for children.
Pets, just like people, crave attention and affection. As long as my pets are healthy, I will take the risk. It’s what I do.