If you’re a dog owner, you’ve probably been on the receiving end of a slobbery kiss. Is it safe? You’ve probably heard the old myth that a dog’s mouth is cleaner than a human’s. Dogs do lick their wounds, and they rarely get infected. However, according to the pet-info website Paw Nation, it’s not because dog saliva is like antiseptic. It’s because a dog’s tongue is rough, and that helps to remove contaminants from an open wound.

So, just how dirty is a dog’s mouth? Dr. William Craig is the former president of the Texas Academy of Veterinary Practice. He says that dogs lick germs off themselves, and from things they eat off the ground. “Dog breath” isn’t just a foul odor. It’s a combination of bacteria, infection and inflammation. Dr. Craig points out that thousands - if not millions - of pet owners get licked by dogs every day, without any apparent problems. That’s because humans and dogs have different bacteria in their mouths and most of it can’t jump from dogs to humans – or vice versa – and make them sick. For example, most upper respiratory infections that affect humans are caused by viruses - not bacteria, and most viruses are species-specific. If you are sick, the unconditional love you get from your dog can boost your immunity and help you fight infection. Studies have shown that simply petting a dog can lower your level of stress hormones, and reduce your blood pressure. To be safe, here’s what the experts suggest:

  • Always wash your hands right after petting your dog or touching their food. A new study found that not washing your hands makes you more likely to get sick from dog germs than sleeping in the same bed as your dog.
  • Finally, deworm your dog regularly and pick up dog droppings in your yard daily. A dog playing in a fenced yard is more likely to eat their own droppings than a dog taken for walks on a leash. They’re also more likely to run through it, and track germy waste matter all over your house.