Dog Lick

Is It Safe to Let A Dog Lick You?

After a long day at work, coming home to be greeted by a wagging tail, jittery excitement, and big sloppy dog kisses is something you may look forward to each day. It affirms your connection, your everlasting bond, and makes you feel warm knowing that your pup adores you so much. At first glance, it seems pretty harmless getting nose to nose with your dog and allowing them to express their unconditional affection towards you. But digging a little bit under the surface of the act of love itself, is it truly safe to let a dog lick you? 

Dogs and Licking 

First and foremost, why do dogs lick in the first place? According to Animal Planet, dogs and licking behavior is learned from birth. The moment they are born, their mother licks them to clean them off and to stimulate their breathing, and they learn to lick their moms back in return. As a result, this licking instinct never goes away. This process releases endorphins, relieves stress, provokes pleasure, and in relation to humans, it shows affection (or you just taste good). 

What Is Really in Dog Saliva?

It has been a long-said tale that a dog’s mouth is cleaner than a human’s, but this is a myth that has been long debunked. From snacking on poop to licking themselves in unfavorable places, it is not surprising that their mouths are filled with germs. For instance, dog saliva is evident in carrying things such as:

  • Salmonella 
  • E. coli
  • Giardia 
  • Cryptosporidium
  • Pasteurella
  • Campylobacter
  • Leptospira

Before you freak, understand that in the majority of cases, your dog carries these in very low quantities, meaning they will not likely pose a threat to your health. Nonetheless, it is still good to be aware of what you could be exposing yourself to.

When to Avoid Dog Kisses Regardless 

Regardless of how low your risk is of contracting an illness from dog licking, there are situations where you will want to avoid it completely because the underlying risk is just too high. For instance, anyone in the following list should not allow a dog to lick them:

  • Babies (their immune systems are far too weak)
  • Pregnant women
  • Elderly people
  • Anyone who has pimples, open sores, or scratches on their face
  • People with compromised immune systems (those undergoing chemotherapy, who are diabetics, are recovering from a severe illness, etc.) 

Lowering the Risk

Overall, the odds of you getting sick are low, but not zero. Because of this, take the right precautionary measures to lower your risk even more, and the best way to do that is to be a responsible dog owner. Bring your dog to the vet for regular checkups/vaccinations, control fleas or tick exposure, wash your hands after handling them, feed them cooked food (raw food like meat can contain bacteria), and brush their teeth.  By just doing the above, you are significantly lowering your risk of contracting an illness or a parasite. 

Want a hard to swallow pill tip? This might be upsetting for many dog owners, but you can also put a stop to dog licking in general, or at least stop them from licking your face. Doing this may be an adjustment, but it is probably a wise one to take on if you are nervous about your health. Pet trainer Victoria Stilwell says that the best way to kick the licking behavior is to get up and walk away whenever your dog tries to lick you. Ignore it and do not reward your dog when they lick. Over time, they will get the hint and alter their actions.

Conclusion

So, is it safe to let a dog lick you? The answer is, ish. Even as an active, loving dog owner, you never really know where your dog’s mouth has been. And the thing is that though their bodies may be well equipped to handle a higher level of germs, humans generally do not. With that being said, if you have an excellent immune system, are not on the risk list mentioned above, and your dog is well taken care of, the likelihood of you getting sick from a dog kiss is very slim. 

In the end, you are more than welcome to continue on with your pup kisses as you wish, but just know that there are so many other ways you can show that affection, and licking does not have to be one of them.