Most of us don’t kiss and tell when it comes to our dogs. We’d much rather kiss our pawtners in private to avoid the judgement from other humans that don’t understand the joy it brings to our lives. People really need to take Taylor Swift’s lyrics to heart… “you need to calm down” and “you need to just stop” stepping on my dog’s tail…😉
We might take offence to the opinions of others as we know that it’s in a dog’s nature to lick things that interest them (including your face). “Licking is a behaviour that dogs learn from birth”, says Animal Planet (DStv Channel 183). It’s a way of staying clean and it stimulates a puppy’s breathing when they first enter this world. The licking instinct never goes away. The process of licking is good for them as it releases endorphins that help relieve stress. In dog packs, a willingness to be licked also serves as a sign of submission to more dominant members of the pack.
When it comes to dogs licking humans, it’s about the way you taste and the comfort of knowing that there’s mutual love (aww!). As odd as it may sound, your sweaty, salty skin is a spice that adds flavour to their world.
Okay, so licking is good for dogs, but what about the humans being licked?
While it was once believed that dogs’ mouths were cleaner than those of humans and that dog saliva had healing properties, this myth has been thoroughly debunked. Dogs eat poop and lick their unmentionables. Their mouths are breeding grounds for bacteria that can be extremely dangerous to humans.
Did you know?
A dog’s saliva can carry Capnocytophaga canimorsus, a bacterium also found in the mouths of cats. While most people who kiss dogs and cats, which also carry the bacteria, are typically unaffected, certain people are more at risk than others. “More than 70 percent of dogs carry the bacteria – which is considered to be a ‘normal oral flora’ – in their mouths”, says Jennifer McQuiston, a veterinarian and epidemiologist for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Why Capnocytophaga is dangerous for humans
A Capnocytophaga infection can cause serious complications, including heart attacks, kidney failure, and gangrene. About 30% of people infected by the bacteria don’t survive the infection’s vicious attack on their bodies.
Although cases of Capnocytophaga infections are extremely rare, it’s something that should be considered the next time you smooch your pooch. That, together with Salmonella and other dangerous bacteria, should be reason enough to be cautious around canines and kitties.
Who should be extra careful?
- Pregnant women
- The elderly
- Anyone with a weak immune system, including someone undergoing chemotherapy, AIDS patients, diabetics, and anyone recovering from an illness.
p.s. Okay, so kissing your doggo on the lips is a no-no, especially if your immune system is weak. Face-licks, too. Your four-legged friend can however give you a kiss or three on the ankles or arms (if they must). Next time your dog plants a kiss on your cheek, wash the area with water and an anti-bacterial soap, just to be safe.
We know it’s hard to resist these cute kisses, but prevention is better than cure. Enjoy the cuddles, stay alert and watch out for those in-your-face sloppy French (poodle) kisses.