Are Dog Mouths Cleaner Than Human Mouths?

Dog kiss

Every time you see someone kiss a dog on the mouth, you can’t help but wonder, “Is that even safe to do? Is it hygienic to kiss dogs on the mouth? Chances are, you have heard the rumor that a dog’s mouth is cleaner than a human’s mouth. Many people believe this. But, in truth, the idea that a dog’s mouth is cleaner than a human’s is just hearsay.

Is My Dog’s Mouth Clean?

The main answer to this question depends on a variety of factors. Dog saliva contains healthy antibacterial properties that help keep their mouth clean. And like other mammals, dogs have a type of healthy bacteria that inhabits their skin and mouths.

These healthy bacteria are required for maintaining a dog’s system properly. A person who comes in contact with a healthy dog’s saliva is not likely to get sick. But, a dog that often ingests and chews foul, yucky, and random stuff such as, feces and dead animals could carry dirty and otherwise harmful bacteria.

Dog kiss
David Kessler / Flickr

Taking all that into consideration, in some cases, there could be harmful results and complications from giving a dog kisses. Recent studies have discovered that there are certain types of bacteria found in a dog’s and feline’s mouth that could affect humans with illnesses.

One such strain of bacteria is known as Capnocytophaga canimorsus. A large percentage of healthy dogs are said to have this type of bacteria in their mouths. Usually, this doesn’t pose a threat to the dogs themselves, and will not even affect humans too.

But, in some cases, people with weak immune systems such as young children, babies, and elderly people can fall ill when exposed to dog saliva with this type of bacteria. And as a result of complications, in some cases, people affected by this may suffer from sepsis.

Other such diseases that may affect people from coming into contact with dog saliva are:

  • Rabies
  • Salmonella
  • Roundworms (Toxocara Canis).

Why Do Dogs Lick Their Wounds?

If you’ve ever observed a wounded or injured dog, you will notice that they lick their wounds. Based on a study, a dog’s saliva contains substances that help fight certain types of bacteria, so dogs lick their wounds to help heal it.

Martin Daguerre / Flickr

Dog saliva helps protect them from bacteria such as E. coli and Streptococcus canis. This is the reason why dogs lick their wounds. Dogs licking their wounds is probably where the rumor that dogs ‘mouths’ are cleaner than humans’ came from.

Puppies at a very young age are very vulnerable to contracting diseases and bacteria. So, other than to try and heal their wounds, dogs lick their young pups to keep them clean and possibly to keep them from certain diseases and bacteria. A mother dog often licks her mammary glands and genitals, as well as her pups’ to help stop E.coli and strep from spreading.

Recently published studies state that in the dog’s saliva are proteins called histains and nerve growth factor. These proteins have been discovered to help the healing process and the skin’s cell regrowth. These help an open wound to close. The nitric oxide created when saliva comes into contact with skin protects wounds and cuts from bacteria infections.

Luigi Anzivino / Flickr

So, one question you might have is, “Can my dog’s saliva heal my wounds?” Well, technically, it might do so. But it still isn’t something you should do. There are other potentially harmful bacteria in a dog’s mouth. This poses a risk if it comes into contact with a person’s open wounds.

So, yes, sharing kisses with a dog could prove harmful not only for you but for your furry friend as well. We can contract diseases and also pass on possibly harmful things onto the dogs. Drug-resistant strains of bacteria and zoonotic diseases are other such harmful things that have been passed from people to dogs.

Dog tongue
Steven Wigle / Flickr

So to safely kiss your dog, do so on the top of their heads, and when they show affection to you. Make sure to not let them lick open cuts and wounds. This prevents harm from both you and your pup.

Maintain Proper Oral Hygiene for Your Dog

There are ways to prevent harmful bacteria from spreading between you and your dog.

1. Diet

A dog’s food diet is one factor that determines how clean its mouth is. A dog’s intake contributes to his overall hygiene. Certain foods help prevent dental disorders from forming and stops bacteria from growing.

There are various foods, snacks, and other such edible products that are designed to help preserve good oral hygiene for your dog. Consult your local vet or visit official websites for information on approved products that help take care of your pup’s oral hygiene.

2. Brushing

Brushing is also another practice that can help prevent bacteria growth. Brushing your dog’s teeth helps prevent diseases such as gingivitis from affecting your dog. Without oral maintenance, plaque can build up, which causes bad breath, tooth decay, and gum disease.

Dog brushing teeth
Liliboas / iStock

So, start by brushing your dog’s teeth three days a week. This will make a huge difference. Some experts suggest that once your dog gets comfortable with brushing, work up to doing it twice daily. Though for dogs with a healthy mouth, brushing three times a week should suffice.

Be sure to use toothpaste and a toothbrush specifically designed for dogs. Using toothpaste not designed for dogs could disrupt your dog’s digestive system’s acid balance due to the alkaline material in some paste. Make sure your hands are clean and bacteria-free by washing before you handle your dog’s mouth. And clean your dog’s toothbrush thoroughly after each use.


If you share kisses with your dog, remember to maintain healthy hygienic practices. Avoid dog smooches, especially if you’re ill or have a weakened immune system. No matter how clean you think your dog’s mouth is, remember that there are still plenty of potentially harmful things sitting around.

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