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Inside a Dog’s Mouth: Putting the Hygiene Rumor to the Rest

Inside a Dog’s Mouth: Putting the Hygiene Rumor to the Rest

Despite scientific and medical facts about dogs dental hygiene, some dog parents continue to believe a dog’s mouth is cleaner than a human’s. As much as we would love to believe this, it is just not true. This myth originated because dogs usually lick their wounds without risk of infection. However, this is due to their strong immune system and not their mouth.  Scientific facts have long determined the myth lacks credibility and that your dog’s mouth is actually a Petri dish of bacterial wonder.

The Human Mouth

Unless a person is homeless and with psychiatric problems, humans don’t sniff, taste, or eat fecal waste or lick ground bacteria from the floor.  Most men and women cherish hygiene and spend money and time staying clean. Human society believes in sanitation and rebuke body odor, bad breath or a reeking mouth. Often, when a man or woman has bad breath, it means he/she did not brush his/her teeth or he/she has periodontal gum disease. Depending on the income status, some people are able to go to the dentist and get deep cleanings. However, even if yearly dental cleanings are not affordable, clean humans will brush their teeth 2-3 times a day.

Dog close up

A Dog’s Mouth

A dog’s tongue is like a velcro pad that sticks to food, dirt, and materials lingering on a dog’s body.  Scrapping the dead cells away, the tongue serves as a brush that moves the bacteria away from a dog’s wound. Also, most bacterias attack specific species independently. As such, most canine bacteria and viral diseases can only be passed onto canines themselves. In some occasions; however, there are certain bacterias and viruses that affect both humans and dogs. These germs are called zoonoses.

Every year, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report Zoonotic infectious diseases (aka zoonoses) that have spread between animals and people. This includes our beloved dogs who unbeknownst to them, may make their owners severely sick or kill them. Viruses, bacteria, parasites, and fungi are amongst these harmful pathogens that cause humans to become as sick as their pooches. And sadly, some dogs are carriers without being infected so you have no idea whether you are exposed to any zoonoses.

Because dogs constantly lick their nose, butt, paws and clean their private areas, they carry those germs in their sticky tongue which in turn get transferred to humans via sloppy wet kisses. And while some dog parents allow their furry companions to slobber inside their mouth (by accident or by choice), the CDC and veterinarians highly recommend you avoid this in order to prevent the passing of bacterial integers from your dog’s mouth to you.

dog licking nose

From Your Dog’s Mouth to Yours

Kissing your pooch on its head, body or even on his/her belly (yes, I’m guilty of it too) seems harmless; but in fact, it’s not as inoffensive as we think. Remember, our pooch uses his/her mouth and tongue to clean himself/herself. This may be more prominent in the belly or leg area. And if other dog’s come up to your cutie and licks them in their nose or head, chances are those germs will be transported to your pet and then to you. Since everything starts with the mouth and tongue, here are a few ways germs get transmitted to humans.

Direct Contact

There is no way to avoid saliva, blood, urine, mucus, feces and other infected animal fluids when your little one runs over to you and drops a huge, sloppy wet kiss. Remember, when your baby grooms herself/himself, it stays in his/her mouth.  Same goes when your furry one plays with other dogs.  The saliva from those canines stays with your pooch. Roughhousing is normal, especially with big dogs. But that also means, the bigger the dog, the bigger their tongue and mouth.

dogs playing

Indirect Contact

If your pooch drinks water from the gutter or from a dirty dish shared at the dog park, your pooch most likely is carrying those germs. Even soiled plants carry harmful bacteria. If you allow your dog to kiss you in the mouth chances are you will be infected.

As tempting as it is to some dog parents, don’t eat fruit and healthy edible snacks from your dog’s food bowl. And if your eyes itch, wash your hands after petting your pooch prior to touching your eyes.

Dog Bites

Unfortunately, not every dog parent is diligent about their pet’s vaccinations. Rabies is one the most deadly disease that can be passed onto humans. Rabies is secreted through copious amounts of saliva. An infected dog will transmit the virus to a human through his/her bite. With the same concept, if the infected saliva touches broken skin, or touches mucous membranes (a human’s nose or mouth), the disease will be transmitted that way too. Humans that are bitten by a dog or animal, must receive post-exposure vaccinations and a globulin (antibody) injection to prevent the virus from living. If the dog is vaccinated with the Rabies shot, he/she will be in quarantine. However, if the dog has no shots and shows signs of the disease during the incubation period, he/she will be put to death.

Dog teeth close up


Food Bourne

Some dogs pick up fecal remains from the ground. During your walks, your pooch may also pick up urine, trash, and other unsanitary materials as they sniff the flowers, trees, and objects in front of him/her.

Well, when you get home, that means he/she will then transfer the germs to the water in his/her water bowl. If your dog is like my Harley and loves to jump and give kisses unexpectedly or after drinking water, then you know your furry one is giving you his/her germs.

Steps To Keep Your Dog’s Mouth Clean

Dog teeth close up

Avoid Exposure to Trash 

Keep your dogs away from the kitchen where they can make their way to the trash. Some pooches are sneaky and will pick the trash when you are not looking. This also refers to trash on the streets. It’s hard at times to catch it in time before the junk is devoured by your dog. Therefore, as dog parents, we must try to be more vigilant when walking our dogs. The best way is to train your dogs to leave what they see alone.

man training dog
Stay Current with Vaccinations

Maintain your furry one healthy by giving him/her the necessary vaccination shots prior to their expiration date. This means keeping up to date with their rabies, canine distemper, bordetella, Lyme, and other crucial shots.  Most vets will inform you a month ahead of time to ensure your pet’s vaccinations do not expire.

Parasite Control

Make sure to maintain your furry babies free of fleas, ticks, and parasites that attack your pooch’s blood and cause horrid diseases like Lyme. And while you may not be aware your dog has parasites from fleas, keep in mind that your dog will lick his/her bum and then slobber that right back to you. EEK! That’s why it’s always good to pay attention to where your dog’s mouth has been.

Yearly Teeth Cleaning

Cleaning your dog’s teeth can equate to the same exorbitant cost of getting your teeth cleaned and/or cavities extracted. For most of us, dental treatment is an economic challenge we even have for ourselves. However, preventative treatment is very affordable for both humans and dogs. In the case of our dogs, brushing their teeth at least 3 times a week will maintain their gums healthy. In addition to brushing your dog’s teeth, give your little one a dental treat like Greenies or dog chews like cow ears. These treats will clean your dog’s mouth by scraping the plaque off your dog’s teeth.

If you keep these tips in mind, you’ll be promoting a clean mouth for your dog. And while science is right and might make us sad now that we know dogs mouths are not cleaner than their human parents, this does not mean you should be afraid to get kisses from your canine babies. Simply, wash your face and hands and don’t allow their tongue to go into your mouth.

Yes, it happens with big dogs.  Their greeting power is way too strong so when you get home, you are jumped and slobbered with sloppy kisses. And sometimes, that tongue gets into your mouth by accident. Don’t panic, just disinfect right away. And if you have open wounds on any part of your body, cover them up with a band-aid. This way, if your dog’s mouth gets anywhere near a covered wound, it won’t get infected.  However,  you must still wash and clean after getting kissed.

I was invited once to a BBQ where the hosts had two Golden Retrievers. Right before the cooking started, the man called his two dogs, placed the cooking rack in front of them and told his dogs, “Ok, clean it”. The two dogs took after that grill like there was no tomorrow. Not only did they lick the grill, but also scraped the sides with their teeth to take the left over chicken from the last time the grill was used.

Needless to say, I did not eat that BBQ and instead grabbed a fast-food burger on the way home!

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