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Is a Dog’s Mouth Cleaner Than a Human’s

Picture of a woman holding her dog

Some people say that a pooch’s mouth is actually cleaner than a human’s. But is this true, or is it just a myth? Well, it depends on what goes into the dog’s mouth. 

Since most dog parents can’t keep an eye on what their canine friends are doing at all times, it is practically impossible for them not to sniff on other dog’s pee and poo, eat a dead animal in the yard, or just lick something inappropriate just because it smells and tastes good. 

In this article, we’ll look at some of the things that make dog’s mouths more or less dangerous for humans, but only if there’s a bite, a lick on a pre-existing wound, or a deep scratch involved. We’ll also look at what makes human’s mouths (and therefore, bites) dangerous and the types of germs that are normally present in our oral cavity.

Can humans get sick from dog kisses?

Well, not exactly. If your canine friend loves licking your hands or even your face, you shouldn’t be worried about getting a disease, especially if he or she is clinically healthy and vaccinated. 

But if you have an open wound on one of your hands, for example, you should avoid exposing it to your dog’s saliva. After all, it does contain a number of germs that could significantly complicate the infection. 

Dog mouths and microbes

Both dog and human mouths have plenty of microbes. But since the two species are different and they also tend to eat different things, their mouths also differ in terms of the germs. You don’t go around sniffing everything on the sidewalk and accidentally getting unclean stuff in your mouth, right? 

Dogs have a type of bacteria called Porphyromonas gulae in their mouths, while humans have Porphyromonas gingivalis in their mouths. Both of these can cause dog and human teeth problems.

Many studies have suggested that dogs can carry as many as 600 different types of bacteria in their mouths. By comparison, human mouths are said to contain around 615 types of bacteria. 

While the vast majority of germs that dogs have in their mouths aren’t zoonotic, which means that they can’t be passed on to humans, there are some exceptions. 

You might have noticed that in the past decade or so, there’s been an ever-growing trend of feeding dogs a raw diet. As a vet, I couldn’t agree more with this since it’s virtually the only way of making sure that you’re not giving your dog the chemicals, artificial colors, and unnecessary (and potentially carcinogenic) additives present in commercial dog food. 

However, feeding your dog raw meat and uncooked eggs can expose your pooch to a Salmonella infection, which can also affect humans. 

In a nutshell, dog kisses are harmless, in most cases, but do avoid leaving your dog lick your wounds if you have any. 

Does dog saliva have healing properties?

Saliva has some proteins called histatins that are capable of warding off infection. There are other chemical compounds that can protect cuts from bacterial infections, as well, and there is evidence according to which licked wounds can heal twice as fast as un-licked wounds. 

Both human and mammal saliva have wound-healing properties, and that’s why so many animals lick their wounds after getting them. Licking a wound also removes dirt from the site, which means that the chances of contamination and infection are considerably lowered. 

But dog saliva might also contain potentially dangerous microbes, including Pasteurella and Salmonella. Dog saliva can have healing properties for the dog itself or other dogs in his or her community. But not for humans. 

Are human bites dangerous?

In some cases, they can be. As you can expect, a human’s mouth can contain a wide array of bacteria and viruses just like a dog’s mouth. However, only around 10 to 15% of human bites ever get infected. Around 190 species of the bacteria that we have in our mouths are anaerobes, which means that they survive in low redox environments such as the tartar that we have between our teeth or in areas of gingivitis. 

To give you an example of how dangerous anaerobe germs can be, we’ll tell you that some of the best-known bacteria in this category are those that cause anthrax (the spores are anaerobes), tetanus, and botulism. 

Hand wounds are likely to have a higher rate of infection compared to those in other locations. Infections that are associated with human bites usually become advanced before people seek care. Patients can wait until the infection is well established before they get medical treatment, and this can make matters even more complicated.

The most significant difference between a dog bite and a human bite stands in the force of the bite itself. Dogs typically have double the force of a human’s bite, but measuring the exact strength is complicated. Some species have stronger bites than others. 

So, while a human bite might be dangerous in terms of the germs involved, a dog bite can be even more dangerous because of the bite force involved. 

Why keeping your dog’s mouth clean is important

Which one do you think is cleaner? A dog’s mouth or a human’s mouth? The second is cleaner than the first simply because we tend to brush our teeth and also use oral disinfectants such as mouthwash. 

But dogs can benefit from oral hygiene just as much as we can. While you aren’t going to be able to eliminate all of or even most of the bacteria present in your dog’s mouth just by brushing his or her teeth, you are going to remove some. Let’s not forget that harmful bacteria can cause periodontal disease, and sticking to a daily tooth brushing routine can largely prevent it. 

Training your canine buddy to enjoy tooth brushing is quite important and should be done ever since he’s a puppy. Talk to your vet about how you can make the routine more enjoyable for yourself and your Fido. Always avoid using human toothpaste as it can contain substances that can be toxic to dogs (such as xylitol). 

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