Porky and Buddy Pet Health – Seriously, How Clean Is A Dog’s Mouth?

Dear Porky and Buddy,
I have always heard that a dog’s mouth, on average, is cleaner than a human’s mouth. In fact, they say that dog saliva is an antiseptic and that is why dogs lick at wounds. I use that fact to justify my habit of kissing my dog, Spot, (OK so he’s a Dalmatian).

My girlfriend is totally grossed out by this and it has led to more than a few arguments and some lonely nights, if you know what I mean.

So, is there any harm in it? I don’t think she will be convinced by anything you say, but now I’m curious.

Dear John,
We have heard that too, but think about how Spot and all dogs use their mouths—not just to eat, but also to explore  their environment, to control heat, and, (How shall we put this delicately?) as toilet paper. So, for these reasons the bacteria in a dog’s mouth are significantly different from that of humans and it makes no sense to try to compare them.

It is true that the saliva in a dog’s mouth has antiseptic properties. It can inhibit certain bacterial growth like that of E.coli and certain strains of Streptococcus, but there are many other bacteria in Spot’s mouth that could be quite harmful for both him and you.

Dogs lick their wounds because they can, not because they have MD degrees. (Human saliva also has some antiseptic properties but we don’t use spit to clean our dishes.)

It is also true that that there are some diseases that can be transmitted between animals and humans, although not necessarily through kisses.

Bartonella (cat scratch fever), rabies, and some intestinal parasites come to mind. So there are some risks with close contact with any animal companion.

But on the other hand, in an interview with Fox News in 2011, Dr. Paul Maza, of the College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University, said this, “Many of the different types of bacteria in dogs and cats are the same type of bacteria as in humans. At any given point in time they are probably not any dirtier than ours. Because most of the bacteria and viruses in a dog’s mouth are the same as in a person’s mouth, it is safe to kiss a dog, just like a person.”

We think you should use common sense around Spot just like you do with all other aspects of your life.

You may want to start brushing his teeth. It helps with the icky factor of kissing him and it is very good for his teeth. Talk to your vet about that.

You should practice sensible hygiene around all of your pets: wash your hands after handling them; clean off the kitchen counter where (we assume) they jump; keep litter boxes cleaned out and use gloves when scooping.

If you must kiss him (and we do like kisses), you don’t actually have to do it in front of your girlfriend do you? Where are your priorities exactly?

Speaking of priorities, wouldn’t Valentine’s Day be a good time to adopt a new pet?

A companion for Spot, in case you have to stop with the kissing, something to charm your girlfriend so she will stop obsessing about Spot?  And someone new for you to kiss. A win win.

You can see all the Oswego County Humane Society’s pets for adoption at www.oswegohumane.org

The Oswego County Humane Society provides spay/neuter services and assistance, fostering and adoption of animals in urgent need, humane education programs, and information and referrals to animal lovers throughout Oswego County.

Our office is located at 265 W. First St., Oswego, NY.

Phone (315) 207-1070.

Email: [email protected]

Website: www.oswegohumane.org

Because people and pets are good for each other!