Is it safe to kiss your pet? - KMSP-TV

FOX Medical Team

Is it safe to kiss your pet?

Posted: Updated:
ATLANTA, Ga. -

If you’re a pet owner, you’ve probably been there. You lean down to say hello and, before you know it, your dog has planted a big wet one right on your mouth.

But a UGA Vet says that “kiss” may come with a downside.

Heidi Hausmann loves her dog 3-year old rescue Freja, and Freja loves her back. Hausmann says, "As far as kissing my dog goes? I think it's inevitable. Because dogs want to come up and they want to give you a kiss, and they want to give you a lick. And mine is no kisses."

Because even cleanest dogs have been known to get into the garbage or enjoy an occasional decomposing squirrel. For Dr. Ira Roth, DVM, Director of the Community Practice Clinic at the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine, the licks come with the job. But, he says, you may be better off avoiding very close contact with your pet. Dr. Roth says, “There are a whole host of issues we worry about when pets and clients come in close contact, and it doesn't have to be just kissing."

So, is it okay to smooch with your pooch? Roth says, "Probably not." The reason, dogs carry some pretty nasty germs like these in their mouths. Dr. Roth says,

"Most of them are bacteria we see, are Pasteurella, are Salmonella, are Clostridium.. These are all things the pet may have, may not be showing any clinical signs, but he or she is grooming themselves, licking themselves, cleaning themselves up. There is certainly a risk of them harboring in the oral cavity, and can easily be transmitted."

The risk of getting ill from close contact with your pet is very low, if you're healthy. But if you have a chronic health condition, or a suppressed immune system, sharing germs may not be safe for you. Roth says the symptoms can be pretty unpleasant. He says, “For many of those diseases, it will be stomach cramps, diarrhea, vomiting.”

Sharing a bed with your pet can also pose problems. Dr. Roth says, "If we have our pet climb into bed with us, and they have flea or ticks, we put ourselves at risk as well, because there are certain bacteria and diseases that both those ectoparasites can carry. The classic example is the cat jumps into bed with you and then you develop ringworm."

Heidi tries to be firm with Freya: no kissing. But she add, “At the same time, does it happen? Absolutely. If you love your animal and you want to give your animal a hug, it's going to happen."

Dr. Roth recommends a yearly vet checkup for every pet to look for parasites or problems that may have gone unnoticed. Vaccinations are key, too.

If you have young children or toddlers in the house, make sure your dog sleeps in its own bed. And avoid feeding dogs in the kitchen, where dog food can sometimes spread germs like salmonella. Also, keep kids away from litter boxes.

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