Is It OK to Kiss Your Pet?

May 2, 2014

By Julia Williams

It goes without saying that we all love our pets and they love us back. I don’t think anyone would ever argue about that. Yet we may have a difference of opinion on the appropriate ways to give and receive that love. Some pet owners like to hug their dog or cat, while others say that pets don’t really like or want hugs. (I believe it depends on the pet).

Some people let their pets show their love with copious licks, even smack dab on their mouth. Others, like me, are uncomfortable with the thought of letting a dog or cat’s tongue come into contact with our lips. I do let my cats lick me on my face, but I draw the line at mouth kissing.

Opinions aside, is it really safe to kiss your dog or cat? Are there any health risks to letting your pet give you a wet kiss on your mouth? Considering where dogs and cats often put their mouths, should we be letting them shower us with affectionate licks?

Veterinarian, dog lover and author Dr. Marty Becker admits to kissing his pets, but he also says “I know I probably shouldn’t.” Dr. Becker says veterinarians are divided about the issue of kissing pets. In a veterinary publication, Dr. Christina Winn recommended that vets kiss their clients’ pets as a way to foster better relationships with them (the people, not the pets). Other vets vehemently disagreed, on the grounds that it is actually possible to catch something from kissing your dog or cat. Zoonotic diseases – those that are transmissible from animals to humans – do exist. Nobody disputes that. The difference of opinion is in regard to the risk, i.e., the likelihood of getting a zoonotic disease from kissing your pet.

What are the Kissing Risks?

It’s a myth that a dog’s mouth is cleaner than a human’s mouth. That being said, Dr. Becker says that many of the bacteria in a dog’s mouth are species specific, so kissing them won’t harm you. In terms of disease transmission, kissing your pet may even be safer than kissing another human.

However, a recent study suggests that transmission of bacteria between pets and people can cause dental disease. It can, but how often does it really? “When’s the last time you ever heard or read of a veterinarian dying of a zoonotic disease or having no teeth from dental disease?” Dr. Becker asked. He believes that although disease transmission does happen occasionally, it’s usually more of an annoyance than life threatening.  Dr. Becker’s advice for pro-kissing pet owners is to “Keep the vaccines current. Good external parasite control, good internal parasite control.”

The Kissing Decision

Whether you want to let your pet lick you on the mouth or not, is really a personal decision. There’s no right or wrong answer. If you want to kiss your pet knowing there is at least the possibility of contracting a zoonotic disease, that’s up to you. We all take risks every day of our lives. Some are itty bitty risks and some are not. Kissing your pet would seem to fall in the first category. Driving on a busy freeway would seem to fall in the second category, but how often do we let that stop us from getting in the car?
kiss by  Daniele Pieroni
I will continue to kiss my cats…just not on their mouths. I like to kiss their foreheads, their cheeks and even the tips of their cute pink noses. That’s enough kissing for me. I enjoy it, and my cats seem to as well. Mind you, I don’t kiss my cats right after they’ve enjoyed their CANIDAE wet food, but not because of any health concerns. “Cat food breath” is just not that appealing to me. Pet bloggers don’t call wet food “stinky goodness” for no reason! MOL.

What about you? Do you kiss your pet? Do you let your dog or cat give you full-on mouth kisses in return?

Top photo by Lulu Hoeller
Middle photo by Taro the Shiba Inu
Bottom photo by Daniele Pieroni

Read more articles by Julia Williams

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  1. Ruby and Angel Pip says:

    I am glad you cleared up that myth of dog’s mouth being cleaner than humans. I have heard that so many times and always found it hard to believe!

  2. ONLY if your Landlord wants youza to smooch! Whatza kind of question is dat?

  3. Melissa says:

    I do smooch my pooch regularly on his little Whippet nose! And yes, I also let him lick me, just not directly on the mouth (I roll my lips in – it’s pretty funny). Fortunately, he seems to enjoy my hugs and smooches, as well as sitting on the pillow cushions behind me on the sofa and snuggling his head on my shoulder. Awwww!