Should you let your dog lick your face?
Most people don’t enjoy the thought of a big, wet, slobbery kiss. However, when it is given to you by a dog, there is sometimes a certain appreciation of that lick. Yes, a person’s best friend is often welcome to get up close and personal with owners in ways that we would never want a human to do. Dog owners and people that enjoy the kiss will often argue that a dog’s mouth is cleaner than a human’s. But is that actually the case, and is letting your dog lick you really sanitary?
“I wouldn’t say that a dog’s kiss is without risk,” says Dr. Mona Waheed, a family medicine physician at Advocate Dreyer in Aurora, Ill. “Saying the dog’s mouth is cleaner is not correct. Studies have shown that dogs’ mouths still have bacteria similar to what you would find in a human’s mouth, and in fact, they also have additional bacteria species that are not found in humans.”
So, if a dog’s mouth is not cleaner than a human mouth, should you still allow your canine friend to lick you? “I would still suggest that you not allow the dog to lick you,” says Dr. Waheed. “Your dog doesn’t brush its teeth, and although you can purchase items to help with that, he or she is potentially still eating grass, dirt and much worse outside that has bacteria, germs and bugs in it.”
And consider this: the things that your dog puts into his or her mouth can get transferred over to you with one swift flick of the tongue. Most people may never have any type of reaction to the saliva transfer from the dog, but it is good to be cautious. And if you do let your dog lick away, an important thing to note is specific areas of the body are at greater risk.
“Your lips, eyes and even nose are of greatest concern,” says Dr. Waheed. “If a dog licks you on one of those, the transfer of germs is very easy. Another area to look out for is if you have any open wounds or cuts.”
A dog, however, will still be a dog. So if your excited puppy licks you, thoroughly wash the area with soap and water as soon as you can so that you can fight off any infection or germs. “People still carry germs when they kiss you too,” notes Dr. Waheed. “So, don’t think you can’t receive a kiss from your pet if you want. Just be aware that it may not be harmless, and that is important to clean it after, so you protect yourself as much as possible.”
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