You Probably Shouldn’t Let Your Dog Kiss Your Face

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First, they came for the hugs. Resist the urge to wrap your arms around your dog, they said. Your canine pal actually despises being trapped in your embrace, they said.

Well. Here’s a little salt in the wound: You should ease up on the dog kisses, too. Earlier today, the New York Times published a detailed explanation of why you should not let your dog lick your face.

The primary argument: Have you heard that thing about how a dog’s mouth is cleaner than a human’s? Forget that. It’s false. Dog mouths are teeming with germs waiting to infect a human host — “an enormous oral microbiome of bacteria, viruses and yeast,” Neilanjan Nandi, a professor of medicine at Drexel University, told the Times. And “there are some organisms unique to dogs that we were simply not meant to tolerate of combat.” Among those organisms are gastrointestinal bullies like salmonella, E. coli, and campylobacter, as well as a handful of worms that dogs can pick up from eating one another’s poop.

The mouth apparently isn’t the only danger zone, either — when a dog showers you with slobbery affection, you also get a faceful of nose and surrounding fur, which harbor their own gross surprises. “It is not just what is carried in saliva,” John Oxford, a virologist at Queen Mary University of London, told the Hippocratic Post. “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.”

That’s not to say all kisses are off-limits — as the Times noted, the face is full of mucous membranes, like the eyes, nose, and mouth, that make it easier for them to make their way into your body, but most of the pathogens a dog carries can’t infect you through your skin. I’m not going to pretend another blow against dog affection doesn’t sting, but at least this one’s a bummer for your dog, too.