If your dog has ever licked your face, then you’ve definitely experienced a sloppy canine smooch—a classic sign of affection. Whether you’re a big fan or grossed out by canine kisses, you’ve likely heard the statement that a dog’s mouth is actually cleaner than a human’s.
So, is it true? Are kisses from our furry friends actually safer than kisses from our human loved ones?
Debunking the Myth
Is a dog’s mouth really cleaner than a human’s? The quick answer is no.
Comparing dog mouths to human mouths is like comparing apples to oranges, according to Colin Harvey, professor at University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine. We can’t actually make a good comparison between dog and human mouths, since they have entirely different “ecosystems;” dog and human mouths are home to completely different categories of bacteria.
This dog myth likely originated from the fact that most illnesses cannot be transmitted between humans and canines due to the bacteria differences. If you sneeze in Fido’s face, he’s not going to contract your common cold; similarly, your furry friend’s kennel cough isn’t contagious to you. You can’t get the flu from kissing your dog, but you can get it from kissing another human.
Dogs naturally have lots of bacteria in their mouths, which isn’t necessarily cleaner than ours—it’s just different. On top of that, dogs tend to lick and eat lots of different things throughout the course of the day as a way of exploring their world. Some of those things are unidentifiable, and... let’s be honest, gross. On top of that, dogs use their mouths to clean their skin and coats, lick wounds, pick up dirty toys, and show affection to you as well as other humans and dogs. This alone is enough to tell us that dog’s mouths aren’t really that clean.
Additionally, doggy dental care is nothing like human dental care. The bacteria in your dog’s mouth also depends on the state of his oral hygiene or degree of dental disease.
Oral Hygiene for Canines
Dogs rely on us to keep them healthy, physically and mentally. In addition to making sure our pups have healthy diets and get enough exercise, we should also be taking steps to ensure good dental health. Neglecting oral hygiene could lead to health issues such as halitosis, gums receding and tooth decay—all of which can be prevented.
Shortly after you bring your pooch home for the first time, you should start implementing tooth brushing into your routine. This way, Fido will know that it’ll be a regular part of his new life, just like nail trimming and baths.
There are plenty of options for your at-home doggy dental care routine: dog toothbrushes, brushes that fit over your fingertip, and even tooth wipes. It may take some time to figure out which one works best for you and your pup. Use toothpaste made specifically for dogs to ensure that you’re avoiding any toxic ingredients. The dog-friendly flavors are a plus, too!
Chewing, which helps to scrape plaque off the teeth, is also good for canine oral health. Depending on the product, such as those with bacteria-killing enzymes, it could also provide an extra boost to your dog’s dental health. It’s never a bad idea to invest in some safe rawhide alternatives such as raw bones, Kongs, or carrots.
You can also put your name on the waitlist for Pet Honesty’s upcoming oral hygiene products: Oral Hygiene Dental Water, and Oral Hygiene Fresh Sticks, both of which support canine dental health and promote fresh breath.
Of course, don’t forget to schedule a regular professional dental cleaning for your dog.
Healthy Human Hygiene
While we’ve established that most illnesses can’t be transmitted from dog to human through canine kisses, there are some exceptions. Dogs who eat raw diets are at a greater risk of contracting and transferring salmonella. If a dog has been licking his anus or in contact with feces (such as playing in the cat’s litter box), he could potentially transfer parasites like Giardia and Cryptosporidium to you.
Maintain good hygiene habits to reduce the risk of disease or illness by:
- Washing your hands frequently, especially after petting or picking up your dog.
- Having your dog regularly checked for parasites, fleas, and ticks.
- Administering dewormers as needed.
- Never allowing your dog to lick your scratches or wounds.
- Getting any dog bites or scratches checked out by a doctor.
- Regularly washing items that your dog is in contact with, such as toys and bedding.