Before you read any further, ask yourself: if your dog’s kisses made you sick, would you stop kissing them?
Personally, I’ve never had a reason to suspect my precious pup has “given” me anything that led to sickness, so I probably wouldn’t stop smooching my number one mutt. But then again, I’m not a doctor. So let’s see what one has to say.
Jane Sykes, a professor from the University of California, recently weighed in on this very question. On one level, the concern is not entirely unfounded. Our pups do carry a lot of bacteria a human dog owner may otherwise not be exposed to.
A lot of those little bugs live and thrive in a dog’s saliva, and since no dog lover can resist the temptation to smooch their pooch, it makes perfect sense that dog kisses might place one “at risk.”
Certain of those bacteria can be particularly harmful if exposed to an open wound. This may sound a bit gross, but if someone has a tiny paper cut on their hand, or any other seemingly small wound, it’s still a giant door for microscopic bacteria.
So definitely, never ever, EVER let your dog lick your wounds. But what about your face? Well, Professor Sykes actually paints a much prettier picture when it comes specifically to kisses.
Although a dog in the home may be a slight health risk, the benefits of having a dog in the home far outweigh them. Dr. Sykes told the Wall Street Journal that “As many as 60% of Americans have pets in the house, and the animals have been shown to provide good health, exercise and emotional care to their owners.”
She also points out that humans with dogs come into contact with their saliva indirectly much more often than direct tongue-to-cheek action, so the risk posed by dog kisses is negligible if the human is also touching dog toys, places the dog has slept, etc.
“My dog licks my youngest kid on the face all the time,” she told the WSJ, “and I always say, ‘Just don’t let her lick you on the mouth and please go wash it off.'”
Dr. Sykes also emphasizes that the best way for a pup parent to maintain their health is to keep the dog healthy. Visit the vet at least once a year and make sure to keep up on your heart worm meds. Happy and healthy pups mean happy and healthy humans, and that means one big happy family!