Doggy face licks are one of those things that people either madly love, or absolutely hate. For some it’s a clear show of the love their canine buddy feels for them, while for others it’s a germ-ridden fest of disease.
Well it turns out that those germaphobes are absolutely right. There are a number of super important reasons you should not allow your dog to lick your face. It’s not about the fact that your dog is out to get you, but their germs certainly are.
Why Dogs Lick?
Before we look at why you shouldn’t let dogs lick you, let’s look at why dogs lick in the first place. Licking is a way for dogs to communicate when they aren’t barking or making other dog noises. Some dogs are also attention hogs, and licking ensures they get the attention they’re looking for. When dogs are licking their owner, it usually has something to do with their owners scent. Dogs are very scent oriented, and the scent and taste of their owner is pretty much the best thing to them, which is why they love licking so much.
Ok so let’s tackle one massive myth that makes people think it’s ok for their dogs to lick their faces:
“A dog’s mouth is cleaner than a human mouth.”
We actually aren’t sure how this myth came to be because it is categorically wrong wrong wrong!. It might have stemmed from the fact that wounds might heal faster after a dog licks them, but this is actually related to circulation more than to a clean mouth environment.
Anyone who has seen a dog, or smelled a dog breath, should know for a fact that a dog mouth isn’t cleaner than a person’s. Dogs lick a variety of things in their environments, often disgusting and dirty things that we wouldn’t put near our own mouths….like their own faeces, other animals’ faeces, dead animals etc. But the real issue lies in their saliva.
What’s In The Spit
Dogs’ mouths are actually pretty gross, and they can contain and even transmit a variety of different microbes that can cause disease in humans. These include:
Ringworm is pretty high on the “ick” scale, despite not actually being a worm. The infection, which can get very nasty, leads to an itchy rash that forms on the body in circles, which is where it gets its name. While it won’t kill you, it’s still not a nice thing to deal with.
Also known as staph infection, this one does get passed from dog to human on occasion and can cause everything from skin boils to food poisoning, and in extreme cases even toxic shock syndrome.
Most people are familiar with E.Coli, but did you know that it’s often found inside your dog’s mouth? When transmitted to people E.Coli can cause stomach cramps, fever, vomiting and fatigue. Not fun!
Many people mistakenly believe they need to be in the hospital and contained to a bed to be at risk of contracting MRSA. But, like those clean dog mouths, that is a myth as it is also a community acquired infection. MRSA is an antibiotic-resistant staph bacteria that can be super hard to get rid of and causes boils and sores. It’s not life threatening generally, but it can be if it reaches the blood. All from one doggy kiss!
What About Other Licks?
At this point you might be thinking: I’m never going anywhere near my dog again!
Well, relax, because the risk of you getting anything from your dog from a normal lick to the body is pretty low. The issue comes when they lick somewhere with a thin mucous membrane, like your lips, or anywhere the skin is open, like a sore or wound. You might also be at higher risk if you have a compromised immune system.
In any case, it is a good idea to train your pooch not to lick is possible, just in case!