Pets & Animals

No pooch smooches! Scientists say you shouldn't let your dog lick your face

If you have a dog, you've probably asked it to "give kisses" — that is, greet you with licks to the face. But if you're not careful, you might be getting a lot more than kisses with every pooch smooch.

As reported in The New York Times on Saturday, letting your dog lick your face risks disease transmission, including diseases humans can't handle.

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Do you let your dog lick your face? Perhaps you shouldn't

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Do you let your dog lick your face? Perhaps you shouldn't

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"There are some organisms unique to dogs that we were simply not meant to tolerate or combat," Dr. Neilanjan Nandi, an assistant professor of medicine at Drexel University College of Medicine.

MORE: Step away from the dog! Here's why scientists say you shouldn't hug your pup

Those organisms include zoonotic bacteria, which means animals can pass them to people. Some of the bacteria include E. coli, salmonella and campylobacter, which can cause gastrointestinal disease, Dr. Leni K. Kaplan, a lecturer of community practice service at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, told the Times.

But as we learned in April, when it was reported that hugging your dog may not be good for them (it stresses them out), dog-loving humans are resistant to changing their behavior toward their pets.

So here's the good news: Yes, your dog can lick you. Yes, your dog can lick your face. Just stay away from the eyes, nose, mouth and any cuts.

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"When dog saliva touches intact human skin, especially in a healthy person, it is extremely unlikely to cause any problems, as there will be very little absorption through the skin," said Dr. Kaplan.

But dog saliva (and those pathogens) can be absorbed more easily through mucous membranes — our soft, wet tissues — and that's why you should steer Rover away from your mouth.

As virology professor at Queen Mary University in London John Oxford told The Hippocratic Post, it's about understanding where that mouth has been before Fluffster brings it over to you.

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Experts say it's best to avoid licks to the eyes, mouth and nose.

"It is not just what is carried in saliva," he said. "Dogs spend half of their life with their noses in nasty corners or hovering over dog droppings so their muzzles are full of bacteria, viruses and germs of all sorts."

MORE: Why won't my dog kiss me?

And as for that old tale about a dog's mouth being cleaner than a human's, it's a bit like comparing apples to oranges, as Science Line reported.

In other words, there are plenty of germs in your shepherd. So maybe it's best to find other ways to share kisses with your beloved pets!

Follow Randee Dawn on Twitter.

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