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Should you let your dogs lick your face? Your dog's kiss might be dangerous

Many dog owners and people who like dogs view a lick on the face from the nearest furry canine companion as a sign of love and affection. Who wouldn't want to be on the receiving end of that beautiful gesture? However, it turns out that a lick on the face from your pup may be riskier than you'd expect.
Last year, a 70-year-old woman was hospitalized with seizures and organ failure after contracting sepsis, a type of blood poisoning, when her dog licked her face. Luckily, the woman recovered after two weeks of intensive care and antibiotic treatments. Yes, her case was a rare one, but an example that some doctors hold up as a reason to not let your dog lick your face.
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Recently, some scientific experts have weighed in on the dangers of coming into contact with your dog's slobbery kiss. At the Drexel University College of Medicine, assistant professor Dr. Neilanjan Nandi points out that dog's mouths are a breeding ground for “an enormous oral microbiome of bacteria, viruses and yeast.”
Dr. Nandi stresses that “There are some organisms unique to dogs that [human beings] were simply not meant to tolerate or combat.” Because our bodies are not entirely equipped to interact with dogs' organisms, illnesses and diseases can be transferred from our dogs to ourselves.
Here are the types of contagions that can spread from a dog's tongue to a person's face:
1. Clostridium: a pathogen that causes botulism and diarrhea
2. E. coli: bacteria that can cause severe anemia or kidney failure
3. Salmonella: a bacteria that when contaminated causes fever, chills, abdominal pain, and diarrhea
4. Campylobacter: a bacteria often found in raw food, causes gastroenteritis
5. Hookworms: parasites contracted through roundworm eggs and larvae in contaminated feces
6. Roundworms: parasites that can infect people through skin and mouth contact
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The potential dangers of having dogs lick your face are:
1. The transmission of certain zoonotic bacterium, pathogens, and parasites from the dog's mouth to your face
2. Severe infection or death for babies, the elderly, people with compromised immune systems, and people with open sores
Should I not have my dog lick my face?
So should you not let your dog lick your face at all? Most doctors recommend that you avoid contact with your dog's mouth because:
1. Any pathogens in a dog's saliva will be absorbed more quickly through the mucous membranes of a person's mouth, eyes, and nose
2. Dogs often sniff other dogs' behinds and sometimes participate in coprophagia, where they ingest another dog's feces
John Oxford, microbiology and virology professor at Queen Mary University of London, points out that “Dogs spend half of their life with their noses in nasty corners or hovering over dog droppings so their muzzles are full of bacteria, viruses and germs of all sorts.”
That makes you think twice about letting your pup lick your face!
What about cats?
Are cats exempt from this advice? Not exactly. Cats don't eat feces, so you aren't likely to contract pathogens from your cat when he licks you. However, doctors warn that cats do carry the following bacterium in their mouths:
1. Pasteurella, which causes lymph node and skin infections
2. Bartonella henselae, which causes far more severe skin and lymph node infections, commonly referred to as "cat scratch fever."
These two bacteria are spread through cat bites and scratches.
What do experts recommend instead?
What can you do to try to prevent the transfer of zoonotic bacterium and illnesses from your dog's mouth to your face, aside from not allowing puppy kisses? Here are some steps you can take:
1. Keep your dog updated on all his vaccines.
2. If possible, keep your dog away from other dogs' feces.
3. Make sure any new pet in your household goes through a deworming program.
4. Wash your hands regularly and thoroughly with soap and water.
Are you likely to stop your dog from licking your face? Probably not, because who could resist a fur ball who just want to show you love? Regardless, keep the realities of infection in mind when snuggling with your pup.
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