They say that dogs are probably the most affectionate pets in the world. They have numerous non-verbal ways of showing their emotions. When we get home from a hard day’s work, having a dog means expecting a warm greeting each time they see us. A happy run with a wagging tail, and yes, enthusiastic smooches!
As pet owners, this enthusiastic greeting is something we look forward to all the time. A genuine show of love and affection. Most of the time, we get showered with a lot of doggie drool.
And to us, this doesn’t seem to be an issue. But is it safe to say that dog saliva is clean? What is it made of? Are dog smooches safe? Is dog saliva harmful to humans?
5 Facts You Should Know About the Dog Saliva
Dogs can fight cavities through their saliva. As compared to human saliva, canine saliva is more efficient when it comes to preventing cavities.
According to Dr. Colin Harvey, professor of veterinary dentistry and surgery at the University of Pennsylvania, the saliva of canines and other carnivores, in general, is a little more alkaline than humans, with a PH of 7.5- 8.
It allows the dog’s saliva to safeguard their teeth against acids that can cause erosion on the enamels of teeth.
The saliva helps dogs with their digestion but in a different way. Unlike humans, dog saliva does not contain any digestive enzyme. It means the saliva itself does not help in breaking down the food.
Its primary purpose is to assist in getting the food down to the stomach where the actual digestion takes place.
3. Dog saliva is anti-bacterial
When a dog licks a wound, it helps speed up the healing, but this is not because the saliva itself is antibacterial. What it does is to cleanse the surface from bacteria, thus promoting faster healing. However, the effectiveness of this process still depends on the extent of the superficial wounds. Often, broad or deep wounds still require the help of a veterinarian.
4. Humans can acquire bacteria through “dog kisses.“
Just because their saliva has some bactericidal effect, it doesn’t follow that puppy smooches are entirely safe and hygienic. According to Dr. Edward R. Eisner, a Veterinary dental Specialist from Colorado, transfer of bacteria from dogs to humans is a possibility.
In fact, there was a study in 2012 stating the likelihood of dogs transferring periodontopathic species of bacteria to humans.
5. Canine Saliva causes allergies in humans
It has always been perceived that when a dog creates some form of allergy, it is still the fur that’s the culprit. In reality, the allergens come from the dog’s saliva. According to a study, there are 12 different types of allergy-causing proteins found in a dog’s saliva.
It becomes an allergen when a dog licks its fur and saliva dries up, thus becoming air-borne. This study concludes that more than dog furs, dog saliva is more likely to cause allergies in humans.
Is Dog Saliva Harmful to Humans?
Many of us have heard of the myth that canine mouths are much cleaner than humans. It is entirely untrue. Although some of the bacteria which inhabit their saliva are canine specific and may not have a direct effect on us humans, research shows that many other bacteria in a dog’s mouth can potentially cause the disease to humans.
According to recent studies on dog samples collected from pups within the areas of West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale in Florida, USA, there are plenty of harmful bacteria growing in a dog’s mouth. Although there was no trace of e-coli or staph causing bacteria, there were globes of microbes detected which even included traces of bacteria linked to pneumonia, plaque, and STD’s.
One dangerous bacteria found in almost 40% of all dog saliva is known as Capnocytophaga canimorsus. This bacteria can cause deadly infections which eventually lead to sepsis, or blood poisoning, and can be fatal. Symptoms of Capnocytophaga canimorsus infection may include lethargy, sweats, chills, and fever.
Another dangerous disease carried by most pups is MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus), and although it does not affect the carriers, it can be hazardous when passed on to humans, especially children, through dog licks and saliva exposure.
Is Dog Saliva Clean?
Your dog kisses may be sweet, but if you try to imagine the many things that your dog’s mouth can get into, you may well have second thoughts and go for lesser smooches.
Dogs typically spend half of their waking life digging their noses in nasty places. Raiding garbage cans, eating disgusting things, and exposing their muzzles to a wide range of bacteria. In addition to this, a dog’s saliva can be a haven for some commuters like roundworms.
It can also pass on to children and people who have weak immune systems. Having said so, it is safe to conclude that dog saliva is dirty.
How to Prevent Problems Associated With Dog Saliva?
The dog saliva can carry up to 600 types of bacteria. Therefore, owners and those who get in contact with these furry friends need to implement hygiene when holding or handling their pets.
Many experts strongly advise pet owners to handwash with warm water and soap after touching any dog. Also, since dog bites can carry deadly bacteria that can be fatal to humans, it is better to take some treatment when this happens immediately. It is especially necessary when bitten by a stray or a dog you do not know. Last but certainly not the least, limit it if you cannot avoid dog smooches completely.
While the love and loyalty of our dogs cannot be discounted, we may not be fully aware of the many possible health threats our best buddies can pose to our family and us.
Our pet’s mouth is full of bacteria, some of which are harmless while some can cause serious health concerns when passed on to humans. However, the amount of germs and bacteria present in a dog’s saliva is also dependent on his environment and how his human family is nurturing him.
Recent studies show that dogs who mostly eat dog food have a lower bacterial count than those who eat mixtures of human leftovers. More so, studies also indicate that dogs who receive enough care and attention from their owners have lesser oral bacterial count.
So more love means fewer bacteria. And if you are a true dog lover, then a peck on the cheek may be fine. But smooches on the mouth? Well maybe not.
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