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Should You Let Your Dog Lick Your Face?

November 24, 2016
Photo courtesy Pixabay.com

Photo courtesy Pixabay.com

It seems harmless enough. You get nose to nose with your dog and talk to it as it laps at your mouth and cheeks with its tongue, or you come home from work and bring your lips to your dog’s in a greeting to say hello.

It may feel like the ultimate display of affection, but when it comes to such kisses, experts caution: Beware of dogs.

What’s the harm?

Dr. Neilanjan Nandi, an assistant professor of medicine at Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia, said in an email that most animals’ mouths are host to “an enormous oral microbiome of bacteria, viruses, and yeast.”

Dr. Nandi says a dog’s saliva has proteins that may help cleanse or heal its own wounds. But in a paragraph titled “Why Not to Make Out With Your Pet,” he noted, “There are some organisms unique to dogs that we were simply not meant to tolerate or combat.”

Some bacteria in dogs’ mouths are zoonotic, meaning the animals can pass them to humans and cause disease.

Some common zoonotic bacteria include clostridium, E. coli, salmonella. It also includes campylobacter, which can cause severe gastrointestinal disease in humans, said Dr. Leni K. Kaplan, a lecturer of community practice service at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

So I shouldn’t let my dog lick me at all?

Not entirely.

“When dog saliva touches intact human skin, especially in a healthy person, it is extremely unlikely to cause any problems, as there will be very little absorption through the skin,” Dr. Kaplan wrote in an email.

Article courtesy of Christopher Mele for The New York Times.