When dogs lick your face, they’re not actually giving you kisses as an expression of love. I mean, they do love you, but licking is their way of submitting to you and showing you the respect you deserve as an alpha.

Or they may be looking for clues as to how you’ve spent your day. Or they may be worried. Or they may have found a bit of food left on your face from lunch (how embarrassing!).

At any rate, when it comes to doggy kisses, there are two camps of people: those who love them and those who don’t. Regardless of which camp you belong to, I’m sure you’ve wondered if it’s safe or sanity.

Is it safe to let your dog lick your face?

Let me get right to the point — there is a chance that your dog could potentially transmit disease to you or your children by licking you. However, it is a very, very, very small chance. In fact, there’s also a chance that you could potentially transmit disease to your dog. But, again, it’s a very small chance.

As a medical professional, it’s my job to keep your dog safe and tell you any potential health risks they may present to you. Getting kisses from your dog falls pretty low on my worry list for both you and your puckering pup.

As a veterinarian, I know that dogs can do some pretty gross stuff. They greet each other by sniffing rear ends. Sometimes they eat dead things. And sometimes they eat poop. A mouth that’s done all that is the last thing I want near my mouth. I also get more than a little nervous when dog teeth are near child faces, because dogs can be unpredictable and any dog can bite if they feel threatened.

However, as a pet parent, I know that face licking is part of the human-animal bond. It’s an important part of our relationship. And I also know that I’m much more likely to get sick when my children kiss me, because they encounter virtual legions of viral and bacterial pathogens each day simply by going to school with other children. For the most part, humans get humans sick, and dogs get dogs sick.

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The bottom line

So, when it comes to doggy kisses, just do what feels right to you. You know your dog better than anyone on the planet, so I trust you to make a good decision. Just be sure your dog stays healthy by keeping them up to date on vaccines and parasite prevention. If you really want to avoid getting sick, worry more about your family’s hand washing technique than a smooch from your pooch!

Nov 15, 2016

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