It's hard to resist giving your cute dog a kiss but a dental expert is warning pet owners that they're putting their own health at risk.
Dr Khaled Kasem, chief orthodontist at Impress (opens in new tab), says using your mouth to show affection means you're potentially coming into contact with a build-up of harmful bacteria. Worse, it's also possible that owners are picking up parasites which can cause intestinal diseases.
“Dogs aren't known for their hygiene. They don't (usually) brush their teeth or rinse with mouthwash, and they've probably never visited a dentist,” Dr Kasem told Wales Online (opens in new tab).
"Their daily routine consists of eating leftovers on the floor, licking their bum, and checking out dead animals left on the pavement. Ultimately, their mouth is filthy.
Researchers have long known that a dog's mouth is not cleaner than a human's mouth, contrary to popular belief. Although dogs have a different species of bacteria, their mouths are still a pool of germs and they can carry a number of zoonotic pathogens.
Some dog bacteria such as Capnocytophaga canimorsus can make humans very sick (and even cause death) and estimates suggest up to three quarters of heathy dogs harbor this bacteria in their mouths.
Dog saliva containing Salmonella and E.coli are also dangerous – the risk is higher among dogs fed on a raw food diet – and there are risks too from hookworm and ringworm.
Given how dogs behave, Dr Kasem says we need to be wary. "Such activities result in a build-up of bacteria in your dog's mouth, and although the majority is probably harmless, they can pick up parasites and bacteria that can make humans ill,” he added.
“Whether they've drunk contaminated water or sniffed animal waste, these bacteria will not boost your immune health as some have argued.”
Dr Kasem said the harm can extend to dental health. "Not only can human infection with pet parasites cause a wealth of intestinal diseases, but it also transfers damaging bacteria to your teeth and gums, causing gum disease.
“Severe gum disease can affect the tissues that support teeth and holds them in place. If left untreated, the jawbone can decay, opening up spaces in between the gums and teeth – resulting in tooth loss.”
He advises keeping kissing to a minimum and to brush your teeth and floss after coming into contact with a dog's mouth. It's also important to keep a dog's teeth and mouth clean and healthy and to discourage your pooch from kissing and licking.
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David Crookes has been a journalist for more than 20 years and he has written for a host of magazines, newspapers, websites and books including World of Animals, BBC Earth, Dogs and Canines, Gadget and The Independent. Born in England, he lives in a household with two cats but he’s also keenly interested in the differences between the huge number of dog breeds — in fact, you can read many of his breed guides here on PetsRadar. With a lifelong passion for technology, too, he’s always on the lookout for useful devices that will allow people to spend more time with their pets.
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