Source: For Dog Lovers by Cecily Sailer
You’ve just come home after a long day at the office to find that special lady who’s always happy to see you, and she’s practically jumping out of her skin with excitement because you’re home. Her tail’s wagging, her body’s wiggling, and her tongue’s flapping. This is love! And with love comes a slurp on the face.
If it looks, feels, and smells like love, a dog kiss has gotta be a good thing, right? Well, let’s keep in mind that dogs lead very different lifestyles. They don’t brush their teeth or see a dentist. They’ve never touched mouthwash or enjoyed a breath mint. But despite having a different approach to hygiene, your dog’s smooched your face hundreds of times. Can there really be any harm in it?
Though nearly everyone survives a dog kiss, there are a few health issues you might consider the next time your dog comes at you tongue blazing. First, four reasons to skip the kiss, and two reasons to accept it.
Don’t #1: You Don’t Know Where That Mouth Has Been
Well, maybe you do. Dogs will devour things you wouldn’t eat for a million dollars. They lick their own genitals. They hover their faces over other animals’ refuse and vacuum up the fumes. Let’s face it: Dogs are pretty brazen when it comes to germs! Their bodies are equipped to handle this lifestyle, but ours may not be, and that’s really the bottom line. Dogs’ mouths sometimes contain bacteria and parasites that can make humans sick.
Don’t #2: Certain Bacteria Don’t Translate Well
Most of the bacteria in your dog’s mouth are harmless. But dogs can carry strains of zoonotic organisms—bacteria or parasites that can pass between animal species and cause disease. These types of organisms have sparked periodic outbreaks of diarrhea, and humans can pick up these pathogens from contact with dog saliva or feces.
Salmonella, pasteurella, campylobacter, and leptospira are just a few of the most dangerous bacteria our dogs may be carrying. Dogs pick them up when sniffing (or eating) animal waste, or when drinking contaminated water from a puddle, stream, or pond. Many dogs carry the pathogens without showing symptoms or signs of illness.
Don’t #3: Parasites Are Real
Dogs can carry parasites as well as bacteria. Giardia, cryptosporidium, and hookworm can all cause diarrhea and intestinal upset. Dogs can also pass on ringworm, which creates a rash on the skin.
Some people conveniently say that a lick from a dog will improve your body’s immune strength, but this logic doesn’t hold up with parasites. If your dog is carrying these invaders, you can become infected repeatedly over time. While cases of infection are somewhat rare, the risk of contraction should give you pause.
Don’t #4: Obama Won’t Do It
These former first dogs, Bo and Sunny, are the most presidential dogs in the country. But even these refined cuties don’t get to lick their owner’s face. As President Obama told Wired Magazine, “I still don’t let Sunny and Bo lick me because when I walk them on the side of the lawn, some of the things I see them picking up and chewing on—I don’t want that, man.”
Do #1: Some Kisses Are Safer Than Others
While you can’t possibly tell which microscopic monsters might be living in your dog’s mouth (unless you get his saliva tested), you can protect yourself from infection—to some extent. If you make sure your dog isn’t licking on your mouth or around your nose, and if you wash your hands and face after a good kiss, you’re better protected from possible illness.
The bacteria mentioned above are more easily received by mucous membranes, like those in the mouth and nasal cavity. In other words, a kiss on the cheek (followed by a face wash!) rather than a lip-to-lip smooch is a smarter and safer way to get up close and personal with your dog.
Do #2: Love Is All There Is
The mental and emotional benefits of owning a dog come from the bond we feel with our pet. This is strengthened through interactions like play, shared activities, and physical affection. Belly rubs, hugs, and pets are part of this, but allowing your dog to give you an occasional kiss also reinforces the intimacy that helps us feel connected to our pet.
You don’t need to stage a Hollywood kiss, but do what you feel comfortable with. Just remember to exercise caution!