Are dogs’ mouths cleaner than humans’ mouths?

Are dogs' mouths cleaner than humans' mouths?

In the eternal debate of dogs versus humans, one confusing question has persisted: Are dogs’ mouths cleaner than humans’? While opinions have been divided and playful arguments have ensued, it’s time to dig deeper into this age-old mystery and separate fact from fiction.

Our canine companions have long been regarded as loyal friends, bringing joy and unconditional love into our lives. Their affectionate licks on our faces often leave us wondering, “Are their mouths really cleaner than ours?” Looking at this intriguing topic not only satisfies our curiosity but also sheds light on the fascinating world of pet health.

Join Pawsitive Tips on this captivating journey as we delve into the science behind the cleanliness of dogs’ mouths and how it compares to our own. We’ll unveil surprising facts, dispel common misconceptions, and leave you with a comprehensive understanding of this intriguing subject.

Are dogs’ mouths cleaner than humans’ mouths?

The answer to this question is no. Your dog’s mouth isn’t cleaner than yours. We are aware that the notion that a dog’s mouth is inherently cleaner than a human’s mouth is a popular belief, but it is not entirely accurate. While it is true that dogs possess certain oral hygiene advantages, comparing the cleanliness of their mouths to humans’ requires a more nuanced understanding.

Firstly, it’s important to acknowledge the fact that dogs have different oral environments than humans. The bacterial composition in their mouths differs from ours, and they have a higher prevalence of certain bacteria that are specific to their species. This means that some bacteria found in a dog’s mouth may not be harmful to them but could potentially cause infections or health issues if transmitted to humans.

However, it’s essential to note that dogs also carry bacteria that can be harmful to their own health. For instance, they can harbor bacteria such as Salmonella and Campylobacter, which can lead to gastrointestinal problems in both dogs and humans.

When it comes to oral hygiene practices, humans have the advantage. We regularly brush our teeth, use mouthwash, and floss, which significantly reduces the buildup of plaque and tartar. Not just that, we visit dentists for professional cleanings and dental care, which further promotes oral health. Dogs, on the other hand, rely primarily on their natural chewing behavior and occasional dental care provided by their owners, such as teeth brushing and dental treats.

It’s also important to consider the lifestyle and habits of individual dogs. Dogs that scavenge or consume unhygienic items, such as feces or garbage, may have a higher bacterial load in their mouths, making their oral hygiene less desirable compared to humans who maintain good personal hygiene practices.

Overall, while dogs possess certain advantages in terms of oral health, such as their natural chewing behavior and antibacterial properties in their saliva, it would be inaccurate to categorically state that a dog’s mouth is cleaner than a human’s.

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Can you get infections and diseases from dog saliva?

Yes, it is possible to contract infections and diseases from dog saliva. Although dogs’ saliva contains certain antibacterial properties that can help fight off certain pathogens, but it is not entirely free from bacteria or other microorganisms that can be harmful to humans. Here are a few examples:

Bacterial Infections

Dogs can carry bacteria such as Pasteurella, Salmonella, and Campylobacter in their mouths. These bacteria can cause infections if they enter the bloodstream through broken skin, bites, or scratches.

Capnocytophaga Infection

Capnocytophaga is a type of bacteria commonly found in the mouths of dogs and cats. While it rarely causes illness in pets, it can cause severe infections in humans with weakened immune systems.


Although not transmitted through saliva, dogs can transmit ringworm, a fungal infection, through direct contact. This can include contact with saliva if the dog has been licking or chewing on affected areas of its body.

Parasitic Infections

Dogs may carry parasites such as ticks, fleas, and mites that can transmit diseases to humans. These parasites can be present in their saliva and can cause various illnesses.

Rabies (viral infection)

Another important viral infection that can be transmitted through dog saliva is rabies. Rabies is a deadly viral disease that affects the central nervous system and can be transmitted to humans through bites or scratches from infected animals, including dogs. While rabies is rare in domesticated dogs in many countries due to vaccination programs, it remains a serious concern in areas where the disease is prevalent or in cases of exposure to infected wildlife.

Rabies can be transmitted through the saliva of an infected dog, typically entering the body through open wounds or mucous membranes. If left untreated, rabies can be fatal. Prompt medical attention, including post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) vaccinations and wound care, is essential if there is any suspicion of exposure to rabies.

It’s important to note that the risk of contracting an infection or disease from dog saliva is generally low for healthy individuals with intact skin. However, individuals with compromised immune systems, infants, and the elderly may be more susceptible to infections.

Is dog saliva bad for your skin?

Dog saliva, while not inherently “bad” for your skin, can have certain effects that may not be ideal for everyone. Here’s an explanation:

  • Allergies and irritation: Some individuals may have allergies or sensitivities to proteins present in dog saliva. Contact with dog saliva can potentially cause skin irritation, redness, itching, or hives in these cases. It is important to be aware of any personal sensitivities and take appropriate precautions.
  • Bacterial and fungi infections: Dog saliva can contain bacteria and fungi that may cause infections if they come into contact with broken skin, open wounds, or compromised areas. While the risk of infection is generally low, it is advisable to keep your skin clean and avoid direct contact between dog saliva and any open sores or wounds.
  • Excessive moisture: Dog saliva can introduce moisture to the skin when licked excessively. In some cases, this excess moisture can disrupt the skin’s natural barrier and potentially contribute to irritation, especially for individuals with sensitive or dry skin. It is important to maintain a balanced level of moisture on your skin and address any excessive licking behavior in dogs to prevent potential issues.

Is dog saliva harmful to babies?

Yes, dog saliva can potentially be harmful to babies under 5 years of age. Although dogs’ saliva contains certain beneficial properties, it can also harbor bacteria that may pose a risk to infants with developing immune systems.

Additionally, babies have more delicate skin, making them more susceptible to irritation or infections. So, it is important to supervise interactions between dogs and babies, discourage licking on the baby’s face or hands, and ensure proper hygiene practices to minimize any potential risks.

Is dog saliva harmful to pregnant women?

Yes, dogs’ saliva is harmful to some pregnant women. Although there are varying opinions among vets and experts, some do express concerns about dog saliva being potentially harmful to pregnant women and older adults (above 65 years of age).

Dog saliva can contain bacteria that may pose a risk, especially to individuals with weakened immune systems or specific health conditions. So, as a precautionary measure, it is advisable for pregnant women and older adults to maintain good hygiene practices, avoid direct contact with dog saliva, and consult with healthcare professionals for personalized advice based on their specific circumstances.

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How to keep your dog from licking you

If you want to discourage your dog from licking you, there are several strategies you can employ. Here are some effective techniques to keep your dog from licking you:

Redirect the behavior

Whenever your dog starts to lick you, redirect their attention to an alternative behavior. Use a command like “sit” or “down” and reward them with treats or praise for following the command instead of licking.

Train the “No Lick” command

Teach your dog a specific command such as “No lick” or “Stop licking.” Use a firm but gentle voice when giving the command, and reinforce it with a hand signal. Consistently reward and praise your dog when they comply with the command.

Practice consistent boundaries

Establish clear boundaries with your dog regarding licking. For example, decide that licking is only allowed when you initiate it and teach them to respect personal space. Reinforce these boundaries consistently by gently moving away or withdrawing attention whenever your dog attempts to lick you without permission.

Use taste deterrents

Apply taste deterrents to your skin or clothing to make the experience unpleasant for your dog when they try to lick. These products are safe for dogs and typically have a bitter taste. Consult with your veterinarian for appropriate and dog-friendly deterrent options.

Provide alternative activities

Ensure your dog has appropriate chew toys, puzzle toys, or interactive toys to keep them engaged and distracted. When they feel the urge to lick, redirect their attention to these toys or activities to redirect their energy and focus.

How to Keep Your Dog’s Mouth Clean

To maintain your dog’s oral hygiene and keep their mouth clean, consider the following practices:

  1. Regular brushing: Brush your dog’s teeth regularly using a dog-specific toothbrush and toothpaste. Aim for daily or at least several times a week. Start slowly and gradually introducing your dog to the toothbrushing process to make it a positive experience.
  2. Dental chews and toys: Provide dental chews and toys designed to promote oral health. These chew toys are specially designed to help remove plaque and tartar buildup as your dog chews on them. Look for products approved by veterinary associations.
  3. Professional dental cleanings: Schedule regular dental cleanings with your veterinarian. They can perform a thorough cleaning, including scaling and polishing, to remove tartar and plaque buildup that regular brushing may not fully eliminate. The frequency of professional cleanings will depend on your dog’s individual needs and your vet’s recommendations.
  4. Healthy diet: Feed your dog a balanced and nutritious diet that promotes good dental health. Avoid excessive sugary treats and provide dental-friendly food options that can help control plaque and tartar buildup.
  5. Water additives: Consider using water additives or dental rinses that are specifically formulated to help control bacteria and maintain oral health. These products can be added to your dog’s water bowl and can assist in reducing plaque and freshening breath.
  6. Regular veterinary check-ups: Schedule routine visits to your veterinarian, including dental check-ups. Your vet can assess your dog’s oral health, identify any dental issues or concerns, and provide appropriate recommendations or treatments.
  7. Monitor chew behaviors: Be mindful of what your dog chews on. Avoid giving them hard objects, such as bones or antlers, that can potentially damage their teeth. Opt for safer chew toys and treats recommended by veterinarians.
  8. Oral hygiene examinations: Periodically examine your dog’s mouth for any signs of dental problems, such as redness, swelling, bleeding gums, or bad breath. If you notice any abnormalities, consult your veterinarian for further evaluation and guidance.

Can dog’s saliva heal wounds?

While dog saliva contains some antibacterial properties, it is not recommended to rely on it for wound healing. Proper wound care and medical advice are essential for optimal healing and reducing the risk of infection.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, the cleanliness of a dog’s mouth cannot be definitively deemed superior to that of a human’s. Each species has its own unique oral environment and factors that contribute to oral hygiene. It is essential for dog owners to prioritize regular dental care for their pets and to practice good personal hygiene themselves to ensure the health and happiness of both humans and their dogs.

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