How Clean Is a Dog’s Mouth?

Photo by: Flickr
Photo by: Flickr

Most people are quite fond of their dog and enjoy receiving their expressions of affection. These often take the form of enthusiastic tail wagging and wet licks to the face .What could be more comforting? Although those “kisses” are a pleasant reminder that you and your dog have a special bond, are there potential health implications? Is a dog’s mouth clean?

Is a dog’s mouth clean compared to a human’s?

While it’s often said that a dog’s mouth is cleaner than a human’s, it really depends upon where your dog has been. If he’s been in the backyard raiding the garbage can and greedily devouring yesterday’s half-spoiled food or taking a drink from the toilet after someone left the toilet seat up, this wisdom could be called into question. Dogs are not “germophobic” and won’t hesitate put their snout into germ infested areas that humans have the intelligence to avoid. Keep in mind that dogs use their tongues for self cleaning and may spend considerable time using their tongue to clean private parts as well as their back end which is unlikely to be free of bacteria. There are also a significant number of dogs who practice the art of coprophagia, otherwise known as eating feces, a habit that does little to earn them the reputation of being kissably clean.

On the other hand, many of the bacteria that make their home in a dog’s mouth are unique to the dog and generally won’t cause infection in humans. From this standpoint, it’s probably safer to share germs with a dog than it is with a human. At least you won’t catch mono or Strep throat from a dog’s kisses. Human mouths are well known to have high bacterial counts and in a medical setting, human bites are more likely to get infected than dog bites.

Is a dog’s mouth clean compared to the other popular household pet, the cat?

It’s probably best that cats aren’t inclined to lick their owners since their mouths are teeming with bacteria that are capable of causing serious infections. Humans who experience cat bites usually need to be aggressively treated with antibiotics and sometimes even hospitalized. Kiss a cat in the mouth at your own risk.

The bottom line: Is a dog’s mouth clean?

Dog’s mouths are probably cleaner than those of both humans and cats, although this could vary depending upon what the dog last chewed on or licked. It’s unlikely that a human will become ill from kissing a dog in the mouth since many of the bacteria found in a dog’s mouth won’t cause infection in humans. On the other hand, it’s a good idea to know where a dog has been before accepting a smooch.