They may be man’s best friend, but it might not be a good idea to let your dog slobber all over you.
True love is when your furry friend sits by the gate all day awaiting your return. And having Spot welcome you home enthusiastically is the perfect pick-me-up after a long day at the office. Not to mention, the huge smooch you get on your face to celebrate your return. You may not have thought much of these kisses from your doggo, but perhaps it is time to consider what you are exposing yourself to every time you let your dog lick your face.
Is your dog’s saliva antibacterial?
You may have heard of people letting their dogs lick their wounds because they believe that dog saliva has healing properties. Researchers at the University of Florida at Gainesville have discovered that saliva contains ‘nerve growth factor’ (NGF), a protein that could help wounds heal faster. Further research published in a general medical journal The Lancet claims that saliva contains nitric oxide, an antimicrobial substance that can promote rapid healing.
Despite that, it is important to note that dogs also carry various zoonotic pathogens, which are diseases that transmit from animals to humans. And letting your dog lick you simply puts you at a higher risk of contracting such diseases.
Your dog’s mouth has been everywhere
Your overly inquisitive canine friend sniffing around the house is simply the tip of the iceberg. Remember the time when it was sniffing its own poo and the butt of your neighbour’s dog? Dogs poke their mouths and noses everywhere, from their own feaces to trash bins. Think about what you are coming into contact with when your dog licks you.
The natural inclination of dogs to be digging in the garden or inspecting their feacal deposits make them more susceptible to parasites. And if you are not careful, these parasites could be passed on to you. Parasites like hookworm can lead to your stomach being upset and ringworm can cause a rash to break out. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the US also warns that dogs can pass on Cryptosporidium, a parasite that causes respiratory and gastrointestinal illnesses. It is extremely infectious and is usually contracted through contact with feaces. If your dog has been poking its mouth and nose in its own waste, you definitely shouldn’t let it lick you.
Unlike humans, dogs rarely get their teeth cleaned so it is no wonder that their mouths are hosts to various types of bacteria. Research published in the Archives of Oral Biology found that bacteria found in the mouth can be transmitted from dogs to humans. Most human infection is due to contact with dogs’ feacal deposits. And because dogs often come into contact with their own or other dogs’ feaces, there is a chance that bacteria like Salmonella and E.coli can be found in their mouths. So don’t be too pleased the next time your dog tries to lick you.
This one may come as a surprise, but your dog’s saliva can actually be the cause of allergies. Not all allergies are caused by dogs’ fur – it could be due to proteins found in their saliva. A study published in the European Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology investigated dog saliva as a potential allergen and found that dog saliva contains 12 protein bands that can trigger allergies. It was concluded that dog saliva is a more likely allergen source than dog fur.
What should you do?
Generally, pathogens can easily enter your body through mucus membranes on your face so it’s best to keep your dog from licking your nose, eyes and mouth. But if you cannot resist your adorable pooch, here are some precautions you can take to reduce the chances of bacteria or parasite infection:
- Wash any licked areas thoroughly with soap and water, especially before you eat
- Deworm your dog regularly
- Bring your dog for annual dental care
- Pick up your dog’s poo as soon as possible to prevent your dog from coming into contact with it