“There is no psychiatrist in the world like a puppy licking your face.” I’m pretty sure that a lot of dog owners will nod in agreement to this quote by Ben Willliams. Nothing beats coming home to an overly excited pup waiting by the door to give you a big wet sloppy kiss.
Kissing a dog used to be a controversial issue although it has slowly becoming widely accepted by society, and the pet owners welcome these kisses with much gusto. However, some people are wondering whether this practice of kissing a pet canine is safe. In this article, let us delve into the habit of kissing your dog, and whether it’s safe or not.
Studies About Kissing The Dog
A team of Japanese researchers conducted a study last 2011 to collect dental plague and saliva of dogs and humans. The samples were collected from those who visited dog training schools and animal clinics located in Okayama, Japan. The plague and saliva were analyzed by the team to look for any signs of bacteria carried over from dogs to humans and vice versa.
Results published in the Archives of Oral Biology concluded that both the dental plague and saliva of humans and dogs carry enough bacteria that can be transferred from one another, which can cause health risks and issues. The study also concludes that kissing your dog may cause gum disease brought about by a disease-causing peridontopathic bacteria, which is present on the samples tested from both humans and dogs.
According to Pacific Northwest Veterinary Dentist and Oral Surgery Center, kissing the dog may cause severe gum disease and may cause the destruction on tissues of the tooth which leads to bigger health problems like heart disease, diabetes and kidney disease.
The Japanese study also showcased the different types of bacteria and parasites found on the samples. According to the study, there are three kinds of bacteria commonly found on both human and dog’s dental plague and saliva: Porphyromonas gulae, Tannerella forsythia, and Campylobacter rectus. These bacteria commonly cause oral problems like gingivitis, gum disease and dental destruction.
Dangers of Kissing Your Dog
Your dog’s mouth and intestine can be a great breeding area to harbor different kinds of bacteria and parasites. Aside from the common oral bacteria, you may also find Pastuerella, Salmonella, Clostridia, E. coli, Bartonella henselae and Campylobacter as common inhabitants in your pet’s mouth. These can cause various medical conditions and illnesses transmitted from your pawed friend to you.
Here are some of the bacteria found on your dog’s saliva and how they can harm us or pose health risk:
- Pastuerella is a genus of bacteria commonly found in the mouth and saliva of cats and dogs, and can cause ski lymph node and severe infections.
- Bartonella henselae is common in cats, and may cause severe lymph node and skin infections commonly known as cat-scratch fever.
- Salmonella is an intestinal bacterium that can cause mild to severe food poisoning.
- Escherichia coli (E. coli) is a bacterium that typically lives in the digestive tracts of both humans and animals. It may cause bloody diarrhea, severe anemia and kidney failure.
- Campylobacter (or also known as curved bacteria) is among the most common bacterial cause of gastroenteritis. Campylobacter infection can range from mild to severe but it can be fatal to young children, elderly and to immunosuppressed individuals.
Aside from the bacteria you can get from kissing your beloved dog, you may also be at risk of being infected with parasitic worms and single-celled parasites. Pets are great host for parasites and they may live with these intruders in their intestines without any signs of illness. However, when the parasites find their way on human hosts, it may result to intestinal disease, blindness, brain disorders, skin problems and severe. Much like passing of bacteria from dogs to humans, the major route of these is through facial licking.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that there is no direct causality to the bacteria and parasite transfer from pets to humans through licking. A fair warning is only put up to provide information about the health risks that may come in kissing your pet dog.
Benefits of Kissing Your Dog
However, there are also benefits that can be found on pet saliva. In Ancient Egypt, it was believed that a dog’s lick has curative power. Even in modern France, this belief or notion has persisted over time.
Recent research from Netherlands has proven that your dog’s saliva does indeed have healing properties. The team of researchers from Netherlands identified histatins – a chemical in pet saliva that aid in healing. It speeds up wound healing by promoting the spread and migration of new skin cells.
According to Dr. Nigel Benjamin of the London School of Medicine, histatins have shown that when your pet’s saliva comes in contact with wounded and bruised skin, it creates the chemical compound of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is known to inhibit bacterial growth.
Additionally, researchers at the University of Florida has also found and isolated a protein in pet’s saliva known as Nerve Growth Factor.
As much as we love to cuddle and shower our dogs with kisses, we need to be cautious with their saliva. There is a great risk in getting infected with bacteria and parasites from our pet’s saliva, and they pose greater threats to immunosuppressed individuals, children, and the elderly.
The Companion Animal Parasite Council recommends that we must practice prudent precautions. Moreover, they have also posted that our pets must have regular deworming session, annual pet fecal exam, regular treatment to control ticks and fleas.
Lastly, as pet owners, we must also practice proper hand washing and proper disposal of our dog’s wastes. This way, we can protect ourselves not only from bacteria and parasites in dog saliva, but also from other contaminants acquired from handling our pets.
Bottom line, proper hygiene will allow us to enjoy the company of our dogs for a longer time. Wouldn’t you want that?