Anyone who has or doesn’t have a pet dog is aware of their characteristic trait – that of licking out of affection. Some people find the act adorable, while some others feel it’s outright gross. Whatever you feel, it doesn’t stop the dog from slobbering all over the person they love.
Dogs lick people not only to show their affection but also as a sign of their security. They also love to lick other members of their pack. Licking in affection helps them release endorphin which gives them pleasure. New pet parents should be aware that dog licking is also a form of communication – various messages that range from “I love you” to “I’m hungry!”
There has been a lot of debate concerning this adorable act of expressing affection. It doesn’t take a genius to be aware that all the corners that dogs dig their noses into harbors dust, muck, viruses, bacteria and germs that can serve as a calling card for various diseases.
Our immune system is capable of fighting off most of these foreign bacteria. However certain bacteria in your pet’s mouth are zoonotic by nature and are capable of causing diseases in humans.
Some experts opine that it is rare to get an infection due to the licking as the skin absorbs very little through its surface. Still, young children, elderly people and people with low immunity should steer clear of such behavior. Particular care should be exercised by HIV patients, those on medication for cancer or who’ve undergone an organ transplant.
The thin mucous membrane lining our mouths is not so strong as to fight off the canine bacteria. Little children are at a greater risk of contracting a tapeworm infection by swallowing infected remnants of fleas from a dog’s mouth. Cases have been reported of dog licking resulting in brain abscesses and inflammation in human beings. The Haemophilus Aphrophilus bacteria found in canine saliva is believed to be the culprit.
Licking by dogs can also cause a host of parasitic infections from hookworms and roundworms. It is believed that a puppy can have as many as 30 million roundworm eggs in its intestines, which may be transmitted via licking.
Should completely prevent your best friends from licking you?
A certain set of precautions can save us humans from contracting any infection. The mucus membranes in a person’s eyes, nose and mouth are at a greater risk of absorbing pathogens. So it’s better if you can prevent your dog lick your face as these parts of your face would be a greater risk.
Other than this, obligatory precautions like vaccination and deworming as well as maintaining your personal hygiene – washing your hands and mouth with soap and water – should be enough.
Also, keep your dogs away from dog faces as much as you can.
A cat licking you is considered less infectious than a dog. But the Pasteurella in a cat’s mouth can cause infections of the skin and lymph node, commonly known as ‘Cat scratch fever.’
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