Occasionally my girlfriend will accuse me of making out with my dogs – yes, I’m one of those people. But, since starting them on a raw diet, I began wondering if innocent face-licking could turn to little kisses of death.
Here’s what I found out:
Is it okay to let your dog lick your face after eating raw food?
For an adult with a healthy immune system, you will most likely be fine. It’s recommended you wait for at least 30-minutes they eat before letting your dog lick your face or any open wounds on your body, which will give their saliva ample time to kill dangerous pathogens.
Yes, your dog’s saliva can expose you to infectious diseases – like Salmonella; but, the benefits may outweigh short-term risk as it also exposes you to over 50% of your dog’s microbiome (and vice-versa), and diverse microbiomes are correlated with healthier immune systems and longer lifespans.
For the immunocompromised -young, old, or those with an auto-immune disorder – dogs should never be allowed to lick your face, as it could pose serious negative long and short-term health consequences.
Why Should I Wait for 30-Minutes Before Letting My Dog Lick My Face?
Although dogs do not contain any enzymes for digesting food in their saliva (it’s heavily debated in the community), they do possess antibodies and other chemicals for killing and breaking down bacteria. Dog saliva has even been reported to have antibacterial effects.
30-minutes should be plenty of time for the bacteria from their raw-meat meal to be destroyed by your dog’s saliva – but, that does not mean your dog’s saliva is bacteria-free.
In fact, your dog’s saliva is always packed with bacteria – which could pose serious negative and positive long-term effects on your health.
How Can I Tell If I Got Salmonella From a Dog Licking My Face?
According to the FDA:
…most people experience diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within 8 to 72 hours after the contaminated food was eaten. Additional symptoms may be chills, headache, nausea, and vomiting.www.fsis.usda.gov
Most healthy adults will get over their symptoms within 4 to 7-days after getting the bug – and some won’t show any symptoms at all.
Every year, countless people get Salmonella from their dogs without even realizing it – regardless of whether or not their dog is eating raw.
Dogs who do eat a raw diet are a lot more likely to transmit Salmonella to their owners – but not because of face-licking, but instead pet feces. If you are feeding your dog raw, I strongly advise you have your dog poop on walks, and not in the same yard you or your children play!
For immunocompromised individuals – which include young children, seniors, and people with auto-immune disorders – Salmonella can be downright deadly. If you are an immunocompromised individual or have someone in your family who is, do not let your dog lick your face. Ever.
As tough as it is to not get puppy licks – I’d rather be a dry dog owner than a dead dog owner.
What Steps Should I Take to Protect Me and My Family From Salmonella?
Here are my suggestions to protect you and your family from Salmonella:
- Have your dog poop on walks away from where you live – if they do poop near your house, promptly dispose of the feces and disinfect indoor areas if necessary
- Have a conversation and set ground rules with your children – the temptation for face-lickings is strong, so, if necessary, separate your children from your dog until they respect the rule
- Practice basic safety practices when handling raw food – clean food bowls after every meal with a separate sponge, only let your dog eat raw meat on floors you can disinfect, freeze and refrigerate raw meat until just before use
Are There Other Potential Long-Term Health Effects From Letting Dogs Lick My Face?
Dog’s put their noses into everything – trash, dead animals, poop, their butt, other dog butts. You get my point.
So regardless of whether you feed raw or not, your dog is going to build up quite the collection of dangerous bacteria in their mouth, and it’s going to hang out in the plaque buildup in her/his teeth.
You can easily transmit the following diseases from your dog:
- Gingivitis & other Periodontal diseases (including cancer)
- Ring Worm
- Staph Infection
- Parasites (such as Roundworm & Tapeworm)
- Capnocytophaga Canimorsus
Capnocytophaga Canimorsus – where parts of your face and limbs will start falling off – is extremely rare, but horrendous to see. If your kids still won’t stop letting the puppy lick their face, just Google it and show them pictures.
But, once again, the real killer is plaque build-up in your pup’s mouth – another reason to regularly brush your dog’s teeth!
For even more information on why dog saliva should be keeping you up at night – see ScIQ’s informative video below:
What Else Should I Know About Getting Licked by My Dog??
Excuse me while I play both good cop/bad cop for a second.
First, the bad news: if you or someone you know think they are allergic to dog fur or dander – they’re actually more likely allergic to dog saliva. But hey! At least that’s a lot easier to dodge than all the dog hair in your house.
Last, even after researching and writing this article, I have a confession to make: I’m still going to let my dogs lick my face…
Puppies have been licking this face since 1989 and as far as I know, it’s never gotten me sick. In fact, there’s actually evidence suggesting dog saliva can actually help your immune system in the long term.
When scientists studied the microbiomes (the healthy bacteria in your guy) of both dogs and their owners – they found that both share over 50% of the same bacteria. And diverse microbiomes have been directly correlated with longer lifespans in both you and your pet.
Check out UW’s video on it!
Why Does My Dog Lick My Face So Much?
Here are a few reasons why your dog is obsessed with licking your face:
- For appeasement – “I mean you no harm”
- To check if you’re okay
- To welcome you or let you know of their presence
- Because your face is sweaty and tastes like salt
- To show you affection
Is Salmonella Bad For My Dog?
Adverse effects from Salmonella are practically non-existent in dogs. Your dog is a carnivore – with a shorter GI Tract, and special digestive enzymes – thus able to handle pathogens that are incredibly dangerous to humans.
Problematically, veterinary professionals will often tell us Salmonella is “asymptomatic” in our pets – which means your dog can have the bacteria but not show any symptoms.
Well, yes – dogs have all sorts of nasty bacteria in them – including E. Coli and parasites. Dogs with a healthy immune system (a primary reason you should feed raw) will have no problem processing and quickly excreting those pathogens away.
What we consider to be deadly bacteria, are – most of the time – likeprobiotics to your dog.
How Can I Reduce Plaque Build-Up in My Dog’s Mouth?
Here are the simplest ways to reduce & prevent plaque build-up in your dog’s mouth:
- Brush your dog’s teeth at least three times a week
- Take your dog for semi-annual dental cleanings at your vet
- Switch to raw food and incorporate raw bone in their diet
As much as other raw feeders want you to believe a purely raw diet will take care of plaque build-up – I assure you that’s not the case. Don’t get me wrong, going raw is WAY healthier for your pup’s teeth – but, it’s not a magic bullet.
Brush their teeth dog-dangit.