We all do it — come home and find our dogs at the door, tails wagging, and looking longingly at us. We swoop down, give them a hug and plant a juicy kiss on their faces, often allowing them to reciprocate with a lick on the nose, cheek, or mouth. But is this sanitary? Can you get sick from kissing your dog? A new study may have you thinking twice about letting your dog lick your face.
In 2011, a team of Japanese researchers collected dental plaque from 66 dogs and 81 humans who visited dog training schools and animal clinics in Okayama, Japan. The plaque was placed under the microscope and analyzed for signs of bacteria. As theorized, the research results — as published in the journal Archives of Oral Biology — determined that both humans and dogs contain bacteria in their mouths, which could potentially be transferred to each other through “kissing."
Kissing your dog can lead to gum disease
Researchers found disease-causing “peridontopathic” bacteria present in plaque of both the dogs and humans tested. This bacteria is linked to periodontis, a severe form of gum disease which, according to the Pacific Northwest Veterinary Dentist & Oral Surgery Center, causes the destruction of the supporting tissues of the tooth and can lead to heart disease, kidney disease, and diabetes.
Types of bacteria found in the samples
The study revealed that three kinds of disease-causing oral bacteria: Porphyromonas gulae, Tannerella forsythia, and Campylobacter rectus “were frequently found in the dogs, whereas the detection rates of those species in humans were less frequent.” There goes the myth that “your dog’s mouth is cleaner than yours.”
The plaque samples also showed the appearance of Porphyromonas gulae in 13 human subjects and all of their tested dogs. In addition, researchers published that bacteria known as, “Eikenella corrodens and Treponema denticola in specimens obtained from dogs were correlated with their presence in specimens from owners who had close contact with them.”
In case the scientific names for the various bacteria are too daunting, the short version is this: they are all know to cause periodontal disease.
Dr. Oz Weighs in
If this study isn’t compelling enough, Oprah’s right hand man, Dr. Mehmet Oz, hosted a segment on his show several years ago warning a dog owner about potential hazards involved with smooching with her pup.
“If your pooch is a scavenger, then a canine lick on the lips could jeopardize your health. The half-eaten hot dog your dog found on the street — or the feces he was nibbling on — could be loaded with germs and bacteria such as toxocara, salmonella, giardia, hookworm, tapeworm and many others, putting your family’s health at risk,” Dr. Oz said in an interview with People Pets.
The bottom line is this: as adorable as those doggie kisses may be, they may give us more than we asked for in the form of gum disease caused by organisms not normally found in the human mouth. You can show your affection to your dog for Valentine’s Day, or at any other time — but it’s probably best to share a hug or a pat and save the kissing for your human pack members..