HomeHealth and lifestyleIs it a good idea to let your dog lick your face?

Is it a good idea to let your dog lick your face?

Any dog owner who reads this will understand what a thrill it is to come home to see their pet giddy with excitement, licking their face till it hurts. Some dog owners actively enjoy their dog’s attention and may even put up their pursed lips for a kiss, but others will playfully push their dogs away to discourage face licking.

It is a touching scene. However, consider what your canine friend has been licking all day. Their drink and food, their paws, their toys, their chews, and possibly their genitalia and posteriors. Are those adorable kisses a little less alluring now?

Many dog owners are so devoted to their pets that they are ready to ignore any potential hygiene issues, regardless of what the canines have licked.

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Furthermore, licking is crucial for dogs. It’s a behavior that dogs have instinctively. When accompanied by stiff facial expressions and back ears, frequent tongue licking by dogs may indicate mild anxiety or tension. In actuality, kennel and training session welfare can be assessed by monitoring the frequency of lip licking.

Dogs respond behaviourally to human emotions by lip-licking as well. There is evidence that dogs have empathy. With the use of auditory and visual cues, they are able to identify emotions in both people and other canines. Dogs lick their lips more often when they see furious human faces, according to a research.

Therefore, lip-licking is a natural instinct for dogs, and it also extends to their interactions with humans. Being licked is a typical occurrence for anyone who lives with a dog, as many dogs will attempt to lick their humans’ faces and mouths. Nearly 50% of dog owners say their dog has licked them on the face. However, considering that many dogs have a fondness for eating things that their owners may not find tasty (quick poo snack, anyone?), is it hygienic or even safe to allow your dog to lick your face?

Dogs provide company and devotion to their owners, which can have a positive impact on their emotional and physical well-being. Most owners adore their pets. However, there’s no denying that dog saliva may have more benefits for some people.

It’s better to stay away from those face licks if you have an immunocompromised person, an open wound, or a dog that like adding feces eating to their meals.

Dogs can carry a variety of bacteria in their mouths that pose no threat to people. On the other hand, licks, scratches, and bites can occasionally transfer infectious diseases known as zoonoses—diseases that spread from one species to another—from dogs to people.

Humans who come into contact with canine saliva typically don’t become sick from it. Indeed, a lot of individuals coexist with their pets — licks and all — without experiencing any health problems.

Rarely, though, have incidents of people being extremely sick after coming into contact with canine saliva. For instance, life-threatening sepsis has been linked to the bacteria Capnocytophaga canimorsus, which is present in the mouths of up to 75% of otherwise healthy dogs and cats.

Contact with canine saliva can also spread other germs, such as Pasteurella multocida, which can have significant consequences, such as meningitis.

Immunocompromised individuals, elderly adults, pregnant women, and very young children are thought to be at greater risk of contracting zoonotic illnesses.

It is in your best interest to avoid dog licks if you belong to any of these categories. Dog owners who are at risk should also be subject to further procedures. At all times, especially after coming into contact with animals, keep surfaces clean, reduce the amount of pollution on home products, and practice meticulous domestic hygiene.

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It is acknowledged that antibiotic resistance poses a serious threat to world health. Bacteria with genes for antibiotic resistance may be present in dog saliva. Humans can become affected by these germs if they come into contact with dog saliva.

Though the study only found a small number of cases, a German study conducted in 2023 on 2,800 hospital patients and their companion animals confirmed “that the sharing of multidrug-resistant organisms between companion animals and their owners is possible”. Thus, the study came to the conclusion that “owning a cat or dog isn’t a significant risk factor for hospital patients’ colonization by multidrug-resistant organisms.”

Therefore, while it is unlikely, it is possible that your dog’s licking could contribute to the spread of antibiotic resistance.

Can there be any benefits to dog licks despite possible health risks?

Documents indicate that animal saliva may have been applied to wounds in the past, with certain dogs being taught specifically to lick open wounds. Nevertheless, there is no evidence to support the claim that letting pets lick wounds will speed up the healing process. In fact, letting animals lick exposed wounds may raise the risk of infection for the owner.

There are further possible therapeutic advantages to the bond between humans and their dogs. People with a variety of problems, including anxiety, eating disorders, and trauma, benefit from animal-assisted therapy. For example, petting and cuddling pets can help patients feel more at ease and reduce their pulse rate and blood pressure.

Dog owners typically gain from their pets in the form of companionship, enhanced mental health, and greater physical exercise and social relationships. But licking is not necessary for the strong attachment between a person and a dog.

Most of the time, it’s safe to let your dog lick you as long as it’s within reason. The hazards of an occasional lick are likely to be low with proper management, great hygiene, and healthcare (for both you and your dog). But it’s a good idea to enforce the “not on the mouth” rule, for everyone’s safety.