If you're a dog owner (or lover), you've probably let Fido smother you in kisses a.k.a. tongue licks. And sure, you probably know it's not the best idea (bad bacteria and all that) but you don't care because you love your dog.
However, there's new reasons why you really shouldn't let your pooch lick your face. The New York Times reported this past weekend that licks from your dog can increase your risk of disease transmission, including diseases humans can't handle.
Dr. Neilanjan Nandi, an assistant professor of medicine at Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia, told the Times that most animals' mouths are host to "an enormous oral microbiome of bacteria, viruses and yeast.”
While he notes that a dog's saliva has proteins that may help heal its own wounds, he also points out that "There are some organisms unique to dogs that we were simply not meant to tolerate or combat."
These organisms include zoonotic bacteria, which can be passed on from animals to humans, causing disease. Some of the common bacteria include clostridium, E. coli, salmonella and campylobacter, which can cause gastrointestinal disease, according to Dr. Leni K. Kaplan a lecturer of community practice service at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine.
This doesn't mean you shouldn't let your dog lick you at all.
“When dog saliva touches intact human skin, especially in a healthy person, it is extremely unlikely to cause any problems, as there will be very little absorption through the skin,” Dr. Kaplan told the Times.
However, he notes you should avoid letting a dog lick your nose, mouth and eyes, as a dog's saliva and pathogens can be absorbed more easily in these areas. And, obviously, never let an animal lick a cut or open wound.
John Oxford, a professor of virology at Queen Mary University of London, told The Hippocratic Post that he wouldn't let a dog lick any part of his face because a dog's muzzle is "full of bacteria, viruses and germs of all sorts" as a result of having their noses in and around other dog feces and other harmful waste on the ground.
And, don't forget, not all dogs want to be thisclose to their humans. An article in Psychology Today pointed out that dogs don't usually like to be hugged or kissed by people because it stresses them out.
So, word to the wise: tell your dog to stay away from your face.