Is a Dog’s Mouth Cleaner than a Human’s Mouth?
Apples, Oranges, Humans and Dogs:
Comparing a dog’s mouth to a human’s mouth is “like comparing apples and oranges.”
Although both dog and human mouths are full of microbes, and there is some overlap in the types of bacteria between species, there is also a host of different dental bacteria in your dog’s mouth that you won’t find in yours.
Can Humans Get Dog Germs?
Most of the bacteria in your dog’s mouth are not zoonotic, which means you probably won’t get a disease from a big old doggy kiss. There are exceptions to this. Dogs that are fed a raw diet are at an increased risk of contracting salmonella, which can be spread to humans, and you really don’t want to share kisses with a dog that regularly raids the littler box.
Saliva the Healer:
Most mammals, humans included, lick their wounds. Historically, ancient cultures even believed that dog saliva had curative powers, and used dog saliva in healing practices. They may have been on to something. The act of licking alone offers some benefits to wound healing. The tongue removes dirt and debris from the wound site, which lowers the risk of contamination and infection.
But what about the saliva itself? As it turns out, there are certain proteins in saliva called Histatins that can ward off infection, and further research has revealed that there are other beneficial chemical compounds in saliva that can help protect cuts from bacterial infections. As if that wasn’t enough, there is even more evidence that suggests licked wounds heal twice as fast as un-licked wounds.
Human and other mammal saliva show similar wound-healing activity, which might help explain why we instinctively hold a cut to our mouths and kiss “boo-boos.”
In short, while there is some truth to this folk remedy, you are probably better off treating your wounds and your dog’s wounds with more conventional care to avoid any unnecessary risks.
Both dogs and humans are equally susceptible to dental disease, and benefit from good oral hygiene practices to keep their mouths clean and healthy. Regular brushing and dental cleanings help humans and dogs keep harmful bacterial, like the kind that cause periodontal disease, in check and are an important part of daily routine.
Talk to your veterinarian about ways to make tooth brushing enjoyable, and be sure to use toothpaste designed for dogs and never human toothpaste designed for dogs and never human toothpastes, which can contain harmful substances such Xylitol.
Your dog’s mouth might not be cleaner than yours – he just has a mostly incompatible set of germs – and keeping your dog’s mouth healthy will make you feel better about those sloppy, wet dog kisses.