Doghouse Confessional: I Kiss My Dog (Safely), and You Should, Too!

 |  Dec 12th 2011  |   1 Contribution


True-confession time: I am an unashamed kisser - of dogs. I honestly don't know how I would get through a day without a K9 kiss, or 20.

A four-pack of dogs dutifully dispensing daily kisses leads one to wonder whether it's possible to find a human whose kisses come close in sweetness to those of a puckered-up pup. That goes double if you've been single for a long time.

Or does it? In the interest of journalistic discovery, this summer I signed up for OKCupid, the hip, hot site dubbed "the Google of online dating" by no less than The Boston Globe. In the space of four months, I disabled my account twice, the first time because I found the whole experience tiresome and emotionally draining (I was trying hard to get over someone but no one came close to helping me forget that Scorpio man), and the second because OKCupid actually matched me up with a wonderful guy!

Mr. Wonderful promptly did the gallant thing of disabling his account. So I rose to the occasion and disabled mine. Here's what I wrote in the comment box: "THANK YOU OKCUPID! XOXO" Am I a goner, or what?

Mr. Wonderful happens to be a dog lover (naturally I wouldn't settle for less; he also likes cats) and an amazing kisser. He generously gives the best human kisses I've ever been on the receiving end of. In fact, Iwould rank this man on par with the very best, most tender-passionate kissers I know: my dogs Sheba (pictured above) and Magnus.

Yes, that is a compliment a -- big one. Magnus is so good that, yeah, I let him slip me some tongue every once in a while. (TMI? Perhaps, but I know you were wondering, and I'm here to tell all.)

I can do thiswith confidence because 1) I know Magnus never stoops to coprophagia (the consumption of fecal matter) and 2) I keep his mouth smelling and tasting fresh with a combination of probiotics (to keep his mouth populated with beneficial bacteria), regular toothbrushing, Healthy Mouth dental water, and daily "Breath-Less Brushless Toothpaste" treats (made by Ark Naturals, these brilliant chews contain antibacterial clove, among other wholesome ingredients, and my dogs eat 'em up). So, whether or not my mouth remains shut, what we do here at home remains responsible.

Call it Safer K9 Kissing.

If you want to be super-safe, seal your lips shut and curl them inward so a dog's tongue makes contact only with the skin surrounding your mouth, not the mouth itself. (For a demo, see photo at right.) You can also swipe your mouth after a smooch session with antibacterial wipes such as the brilliant ones by CleanWell.

Safer K9 Kissing is great if you're smooching your own pooch(es), or dogs you know intimately, i.e. the well-cared-for pets of close friends and family, as these animalsare dewormed and up-to-date on their shots. But what about strange dogs? Veterinarians and doctors agree: You really shouldn't let a dog you don't know kiss youfull on the mouth, especially not with your mouth open. People who are very young, very old, or immune-compromised need to be especially careful about steering clear of canine saliva.

Here are just a few things that could go very wrong, according to Dr. Andrew Kaplan of New York's City Veterinary Care:

"The benefits of sharing affection with your dog don't outweigh the risks, no matter how infrequent. After all, there have been reports of serious and life-threatening diseases transmitted from dogs to people. These include, but are not limited to:

1. Transmission of resistant bacteria: MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), which can become a problem if a human being has immune suppression or an infected wound

2. Transmission of pathogenic bacteria like Salmonella, which dogs can carry from contaminated food; E. coli; and leptospirosis.

3. Transmission of parasites like roundworm, hookworm, and Giardia (on a very limited basis if at all)

4. Transmission of rabies: The saliva of a rabies-infected dog can infect a person fatally, but that saliva has to contact an open wound.

"For me: as a general rule and no matter how compelling, I avoid, and recommend that others avoid, allowing dogs to lick their face or mouth," Kaplan concludes.

But let's be real here: Iwon't stop kissing my beloved K9s, and I suspect many of my fellow Dogsters won't either. So let common sense guide your lips. Please kiss dogs safely, or don't kiss them on the mouth. Peck 'em on the forehead instead.

Here's some really good news, especially for Dogsters who, like me, arecurrently coping withthe common cold: "People can't really give dogs things by kissing," Kaplan adds. "However, it has been proven that dogs and people share the same bacteria merely by being in the same home or hospital environment."

Dogsters, we'd love to hear your secrets for Safer K9 Kissing, so please share in the comments.

Top photo by Wyatt Marshall

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