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Setting the Record Straight on Who's Mouth is Cleaner: Yours or Your Dog's
By Amy Caldwell
Published: 09/22/2017, edited: 08/10/2021
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Whether you’re a long-time dog owner or a newbie to the world of pet ownership, you’ve most likely heard the oft-repeated wisdom that your canine companion has a much cleaner mouth than any human possibly could. If you’ve ever spent any time observing your dog’s grooming habits or propensity to use their jaws as a tool to pick up, well, just about anything, you may have questioned the accuracy of the whole statement on doggie hygiene.
Your canine companion did seem rather pleased when they brought you that dead squirrel as you walked through the dog park. Is it possible that your dog’s mouth has some natural antimicrobial, cleansing or other properties that fight off germs and make it “cleaner” than your own brushed and polished orifice? Read on to find out the truth behind this “common knowledge”.
Is My Dog's Mouth Cleaner Than Mine?
When it comes to whether your dog’s mouth is really cleaner than yours, the answer is a resounding no. As you would guess, your dog comes into contact with a variety of bacteria and foreign bodies in their daily hunt for food, treats, and toys. In addition, both dogs and humans have a natural set of bacteria or flora that live in their mouths in harmony with their body’s immune, digestive and other systems. In general, your dog has about the same number of bacteria as you would. Your dog wins in the unhygienic category, however, when you consider the normal “doggy” behaviors they seem to be fond of engaging in such as raiding the litter box, digging into the trash and grooming certain personal areas on their body.
Given the science to refute the claim, you may wonder how the myth started getting spread around in the first place. While your dog’s mouth may not be cleaner than yours, it turns out that you have a lower potential of catching germs and diseases from a normal, well-groomed, dog than a similar human counterpart. This is owed to the fact that most of the germs and bacteria in a dog’s mouth aren’t zoonotic, meaning they can’t cross species. If you kiss a friend, partner, or family member that has the flu, for example, you are at a high risk of catching their cold and becoming sick yourself. Most of the bacteria that reside in your dog’s mouth aren’t compatible with human bodies, making people unlikely to get sick from these germs.
Before you get a big ole slobbery kiss from your pooch, however, you should take note of a few important facts. Doggy dental hygiene is just as important as it is in humans. Gum disease is the most common problem diagnosed in both dogs and cats. Because of this, part of your furry buddy's annual checkup will include a complete examination of their teeth and gums. Pet owners should take measures to ensure their dog has good oral health. This includes feeding raw meaty bones that help clean teeth of tartar and buildup and brushing your furry companion's teeth on a regular basis with veterinarian-approved toothpaste.
Dogs also shouldn’t be allowed to lick their human owner’s open wounds, as bacteria are present and able to infect these cuts, causing potential health risks. The bacteria are different than what is found in the human mouth and body and therefore, an open wound will receive germs that can proliferate and become harmful.
How Can I Keep My Dog's Mouth Clean?
Ensure that you are taking the best care possible of your canine friend's mouth. A clean mouth is a healthy one.
- Take your dog for annual checkups at the vet
- Use treats and vet-approved chew toys to keep the gums clean and healthy
- Use an oral rinse or toothbrush to clean the teeth
- Feed them nutritionally balanced food
- Prevent access to garbage and dead wildlife
Although the saying that your dog’s mouth is cleaner than your own may be a myth, it turns out that it’s partly just a matter of perspective. Sure, you may not be able to pick up colds, diseases, and illnesses from kissing your pooch the way you can with another person, but that doesn’t mean their oral cavities have fewer bacteria than yours. In addition, dogs are still prone to tooth decay and owners should take care to practice good dental hygiene with their pet. Knowing the details of your dog’s mouth cleanliness is an important key to helping ensure your dog’s health and happiness for years down the road.