- The dirty truth: Despite the old adage that a dog's mouth is cleaner than a person's, the truth is that pets do carry germs in their mouths much like humans. In a recent study for the Archives of Oral Biology, Japanese researchers found that it's possible for oral disease-causing bacteria to be transferred between dogs and their owners. However, Dr. Paul Maza of the Cornell University Veterinary Medicine Department argues that since the bacteria in a cat or dog's mouth is pretty similar to that of a human, the health hazard of pet kisses is really no different than kissing another human.
- Benefits outweigh the risk: The health benefits of bonding with your pet far outweigh the risks. Caring for a pet can positively affect your mood and health. The CDC reports that pet ownership can decrease blood pressure, cholesterol and feelings of loneliness. If you look forward to those pet kisses at the end of a long day at work, then don't be afraid to show a little love.
- Brush before you pucker up: Proper dental care is just as important for pets as it is for their owners. Regularly brushing your pet's teeth can help minimize bacteria and reduce the risk of gum disease. If you are concerned about your pet's oral health, talk to your veterinarian about what other steps you can take.
- Playing it safe: Those with autoimmune disorders or those more susceptible to illnesses, like very young infants, may want to limit their pet kisses to be safe. Practicing good hygiene as a pet owner is always important. To prevent the spread of bacteria, wash your hands regularly after petting or playing with your pet.
- Alternative ways to share the love: Not everyone is a fan of slobbery dog kisses. If licks just aren't for you, there are still ways you can bond and share a little love with your dog or cat. Give your pet a belly rub when she greets you excitedly at the door, for example, or just enjoy some good old-fashioned snuggle time on the couch.
Bonding with your pet is beneficial to both of you, no matter how you choose to show your affection.
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