Rare is the dog owner who’s pet has never given them a canine kiss.
Sloppy, wet dog kisses – it would seem – could hand in paw with the dog ownership experience. But can dogs pass on germs when they lick your face? One of the more commonly asked questions we get here at DogTips.co is whether dogs can pass on germs to humans, particularly by licking…
Why Do Dogs Lick Faces?
Dogs use their long tongues for mopping up lunch crumbs, removing mud from their feet, and cleaning their privates. And yet, when they give our faces sloppy licks, there’s something endearing about it. Apart from occasional attempts to retrieve bits of glazed doughnut from our chins, dogs lick us because they like us. It isn’t a kiss, but it’s close.
Almost as soon as they’re born, dogs experience the soft warmth of their mothers’ tongue, which bathes them with maternal affection. The licking never really stops after that. Mothers take advantage of their puppies’ relative immobility during nursing to lick them clean. They also lick their bottoms to jump-start their impulses to relieve themselves.
Is it OK to Let Puppies Lick Faces?
Puppies do their share of licking too. They lick older dogs’ chins and faces to greet them and show respect. And when they’re hungry – and puppies are perpetually in search of something to eat – licking their mother will sometimes stimulate her to regurgitate a meal, which the puppies regard as an appetizing lunch.
As dogs get older, they lick each other less often, but they never quit entirely. At the very least, in the absence of hands and hairbrushes, they do each other’s hair with their tongues.
A Show Of Respect
Dogs don’t lick people because they’re hoping for a hot meal. They lick because we’re their parents, or at least the head folks in the house. Even when dogs are old, gray, and grizzled, they see themselves in some ways as being our children, and a lick shows how much they respect us.
You can tell a little bit about your dog’s personality by how much licking she does. Dogs who are very bold or independent are restrained with their licking because they don’t feel as though there is anyone they have to win over. Outgoing, sociable dogs, on the other hand, lick everyone all the time.
We play a role in all this licking too. It doesn’t take dogs very long to learn that laying a wet one on the cheek is a great way to get cooed over and rubbed the right way. So in a way, the instinct to lick is both ancient and immediate; dogs do it naturally, and we en- courage them to do it more.
How To React to Dog Face Licking?
People are never sure how to react to licks. The first emotion is generally “Aw, that’s cute,” closely followed by “Yuck.” Imagine where that tongue has been! But it’s not as unhygienic as it seems. At worst, dog licks are like wiping your face with a slightly dirty washcloth. Not exactly cleansing, but hardly worth worrying about. In fact, there’s some evidence that it may be good for you.
So whilst a dog lick on the face might not be to everyone’s taste, judging by the millions and millions of dog owners who’ve received a dog lick to the chops, it’s not going to kill you (or your children!).
Should You Let Your Dog Lick You
Do you like it when your dog licks your face or hands? Some pet owners find this disgusting. Others consider it a loving gesture that makes you even closer to them. If you are like the latter, then you may want to think again. It may seem affectionate and fun but, your dog's lick could give you more than you asked for.
To get an idea of why you may not want your dog licking you, all you have to do is think of the places a dog's tongue frequently visits. Most dogs spend a lot of time licking garbage, dirt, sticks and even their private areas and feces on the lawn. It's obvious that remnants of these things could still be on their tongue while they are licking you. Even if the garbage and feces are not in the dog's mouth, the bacteria from them probably is. This means that letting your dog lick your face may not be the cleanliest decision.
There are many health risks associated with letting your dog lick you. One of the biggest is roundworms. Roundworms are an intestinal parasite commonly found in puppies and can be passed to you through licking. If you get your pet tested regularly and give it de-worming medication every month, the risk is slim to none. Either way it's something to consider if you are going to let your dog lick you anytime they please. Some serious medical conditions can be caused by roundworms. Symptoms are cough, fever and headache.
Other illnesses and diseases can be transmitted in addition to roundworms. These include
Leptospirosis, Salmonella, and E. coli. These can all be passed through the saliva. Also, strep throat has been linked to dogs licking their owner's faces. Far less likely but, still something to think about is that Rabies is also transmitted through saliva, but if you keep your dog vaccinated this should not be an issue.
Some dog owners will say that a dog's saliva actually contains an enzyme that promotes healing and will encourage their dog to lick their cuts or wounds. This fact is true, but the enzyme only works on the wounds of dogs and does not help humans at all. Therefore, you should not encourage your dog to lick open wounds or cuts on you as this will only increase your chance of infection.
In closing, while your pet passing on and illness or parasite to you is unlikely if you keep them properly vaccinated and tested, it may still be a good idea to discourage licking in order to reduce the chances even more.