Kissing Your Dog: Could Your Pet Potentially Be Making You Sick?


We’ve all heard for years that dog’s mouths are cleaner than humans, but how much truth does this hold?

To find out the truth, I contacted Dr. Aziza Glass, a recent graduate of Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Glass was gracious enough to write an article giving a little more insight to this myth. Check it out!

There’s a reason why canines are called man’s best friend. They have evolved to be a great companion to humans. They understand our language, read our facial expressions, and navigate our moods. We in turn humanize their mannerisms. This includes dog licks,  more fondly referred to as kisses. While dog kisses are often interpreted as signs of affection, there are some potential hazards associated with this gesture.

Dog mouths (like humans) are full of bacteria. Think about it. One of the ways dogs experience the world is by smell and taste. These bacteria, like Pasteurella, are normal inhabitants of canine mouths however it is possible for them to cause disease in humans. Let’s consider the risk factors:

  1. Copraphagia: Dogs that lick their butts or butts of their friends risk ingesting fecal matter. Sounds gross? Yes, it is. This leads to an increased chance of passing along Salmonella, Campylobacter, and Clostridia. Once these bacteria enter a human’s digestive system it can cause severe intestinal disease, like vomiting, and diarrhea.

  2. Raw diet: If your pup is eating a raw diet, the meat could become the source of food borne bacterial disease like Salmonella and E.coli. With each meal, the oral cavity receives a fresh dose of potentially harmful bacteria that can be transmitted with every subsequent lick.

  3. Young children/Immuno-compromised/Elderly: These groups of individuals tend to have an immune system that is not as robust as the average adult. Therefore, they are at a higher risk.

  4. Poor dental hygiene/health: A nasty mouth predisposes to nasty disease. If a canine’s mouth is full of dental tartar, plaque, or calculus the amount of harmful bacteria significantly increases. A telltale sign of poor dental health is halitosis (otherwise known as very bad breath).

  5. Open sores/lacerations: If a human has wounds, exposure to the bacterial flora from a dog’s mouth directly on the wounds could lead to skin or systemic infections.

Although there are definitely risk factors for zoonotic diseases (something that is transmitted from an animal to human) originating from canine mouths, the good news is that you are not in mortal danger every time your four legged best friend gives you a friendly lick. What can you do to make it safer for both you and your pet? Discourage eating of feces (make an appointment with your vet if you notice this behavior). Make sure that if you are feeding a raw diet, the meats/vegetables are stored at the right temperature (both at the store where it was purchased and back at home). Make sure your pet receives annual dental cleanings. Do not allow your dog to lick your wounds (if it does, just wash the wound with soap and water for at least 15 seconds).

Overall, feel free to continue receiving your lovable licks from your kissing canine. You are their world and they believe you are the most amazing human on earth. In turn, make sure you take care of them and do your best to live up to their expectations.