They’re cute, cuddly and often affectionate. But is it a good idea to let your pets lick your face?
A recent study shows that it could be dangerous despite the common belief that dogs have perfectly clean mouths.
Dog owners we talked to at the Enfield Dog Park say licking is alright with them.
“It doesn’t bother me at all, their mouths are supposed to be cleaner than ours,” said Devin St. Amant.
But that may be an old wives tail according to a study in the “Oral Archives of Biology,” which finds it’s possible for dogs and humans to swap disease-causing oral bacteria.
The study also notes that more bacteria is found in dogs’ mouths than in humans.
Researchers found streptococcus in nearly 20% of canine mouths and neisseira in 10%.
“It’s not always the safest thing to have them licking and kissing your face,” says veterinarian Larry Pennington of Windsor Animal Clinic.
Dr. Pennington sees dozens of dogs each week.
“The mouths can be loaded with a lot of bad bacteria… like streptococcus, staphylococcus,” says Pennington.
While Dr. Pennington says it’s a concern, the infectious disease specialist FOX CT talked to says that getting a little smooch from your pet isn’t a big deal.
“I don’t think it’s cause for concern. Neisseria grows in lots of different places including human mouths, and although both meningitis and gonorrhea are part of the Neisseria family, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to get gonorrhea from your dog,” says Dr. Amesh Adalja.
Dr. Adalja, who studies infectious diseases, told Fox CT via Skype, that bacteria flora live inside the mouths of pretty much all animals.
“I don’t think there’s any problem with any kind of casual interaction that people have had for centuries with their dogs. It’s not something that poses any kind of major public health threat to them,” says Dr. Adalja.
So, what should pet owners do?
It seems the consensus is that while these bacteria can transfer, it’s unlikely you’ll get sick.
But both the vet and disease specialist stress that dog bites are totally different and highly prone to serious infection.