Lucy, the narcissistic character in the Peanuts cartoon strip, loved to fuss and fume whenever Snoopy gave her a kiss. She would dash in circles, shouting, “Ugh! I’ve been kissed by a dog. I have dog germs. Get some disinfectant. Get some hot water. Get some iodine.”
So today’s burning question, with Valentine’s Day (aka kissing day) just around the corner, is:
Can a kiss from a dog actually make you sick?
The short answer is yes, but first a few facts (that, in their heart of hearts, pet owners know but don’t like to admit they’re true):
- Dogs come in contact daily with all sorts of stuff – think the canine need to “butt-sniff another dog” greeting, or the “think I’ll roll on this dead squirrel” pastime, perhaps the “I’ll just gobble down this dead bird for my pre-dinner appetizer. Yum.”
- Dogs, like all of us, carry bacteria in their saliva, and can easily slobber these invisible critters on us with one simple lick of a dog-lolling tongue. When shared with their loving owners, these invisible villains can make us sick.
- Sick with what? Food poisoning is the most common problem, caused by Salmonella, Campylobacter, or Giardia, followed by vector-related infections i.e. Lyme’s Disease carried by wood ticks. And the occasional case of meningitis in those with diabetes or weak immune systems – whoa – that’s scary.
What to do? Here are some simple precautions when interacting with Fido:
- If you throw a ball to give doggie some back-yard exercise, and it’s promptly retrieved and returned for round two of fun, that tennis ball has lots of saliva on it. If you touch your face or rub your eyes, your pet has just shared doggie spit with you.
- If your little woofer sleeps with you, keep an eye out for fleas and wood ticks – both potential infectious vectors.
- If you fear your pet may have gotten you ill, make two phone calls: one to your human doctor – to get you well, followed quickly by a second call your vet – to get your pet well.
So once again the old saw concerning wellness applies: Keep your pet healthy with regular well-care visits to your veterinarian and you healthy with regular check-ups at your human doctor. And wash your hands, wash your hands, and wash your hands. Easy peasy!