Should You Let Your Dog Lick Your Face? What Science Has to Say


As a devoted dog owner, you might find yourself wondering if it's safe to let your furry companion plant a wet, affectionate lick on your face. While the thought of dog kisses may seem harmless and endearing, it's crucial to delve into the scientific aspects that lurk behind this seemingly innocent gesture.

The Unseen Threats in a Dog's Lick

Dogs, by nature, are curious creatures. Their adventures often lead them to explore less-than-sanitary environments, like rummaging through trash or engaging in their grooming rituals.

This means that the same mouth offering you affection might have recently encountered something unsavory. For individuals with weakened immune systems, such as the elderly or those without a functional spleen, this poses a significant health concern.

A particularly alarming pathogen, Capnocytophaga canimorsus, often found in a dog's saliva, can cause severe infections. Although these cases are rare, they're serious enough to warrant caution.

Infectious diseases expert Dr. Sonya Krishnan from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine compares the risk of Capnocytophaga sepsis to the likelihood of being struck by lightning – a rare but plausible threat.

Reducing the Risks

To minimize the potential dangers of a dog's affectionate licks, there are several steps you can take. Keeping your dog's vaccinations up-to-date, particularly against rabies, is crucial.

While your skin acts as a natural barrier against bacterial infections, areas with open wounds or mucous membranes, like your mouth, nose, or eyes, should be off-limits for your pet's tongue.

Another point to consider is the risk of dog bites, especially in households with children. A study highlighting dog-bite injuries in children revealed that family dogs were responsible for a significant percentage of these incidents, emphasizing the importance of supervised interactions between pets and young family members.

Embracing the Joy of Dog Ownership

Despite these cautions, the benefits of having a dog are numerous. From providing companionship and reducing feelings of loneliness to encouraging regular exercise, dogs have proven to be invaluable companions, particularly during challenging times like the recent pandemic.

Studies have even shown that babies raised in homes with dogs have a lower risk of developing allergies and respiratory issues.

Bonding with your dog through petting or conversation can release oxytocin in both you and your pet, enhancing the emotional connection without the need for licking.

Taking care of your dog's health is an extension of taking care of your own. Regular health screenings, anti-parasitic medications, and dental care are as essential for your pet as they are for you. Maintaining your dog's health not only ensures their well-being but also safeguards your own.

In conclusion, while dog kisses might seem like a token of unconditional love, it's essential to be aware of the hidden risks they carry. By taking the right precautions and understanding the science behind these risks, you can enjoy a healthy, fulfilling relationship with your loyal four-legged friend.

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MSc (Research) | Named Standford's world's top 1% scientists | Independent scientist | 10x first-author academic papers | 400+ articles on coronavirus


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