The Grapevine

Does Your Dog Or Cat Lick You? How Common Diseases Spread From Pets To Owners

The New York Times recently made some enemies with an article advising dog owners to avoid letting their beloved pets lick their faces. The piece, though considered controversial, does raise an often overlooked point of just how common it is for owners to get sick from their pets.

In the October 2016 article, Dr. Neilanjan Nandi, an assistant professor of medicine at Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia, told The New York Times, mouth-to-mouth contact with a dog should be avoided because dog mouths are a breeding ground for yeast, viruses, and bacteria. And what about the idea that dog saliva contains “curing properties” that aid in wound healing? According to Nandi, this is still true, but the professor noted that dog saliva is only meant to heal dog wounds, and there are some organisms in the dog mouth that the human body simply cannot tolerate.    

dog licking Having your dog lick your face can lead to the spread of disease and parasites. Photo Courtesy of Pixabay

There are a number of illnesses that can be passed from dogs to humans, and one of the most common of these are gastrointestinal problems caused by parasites, bacteria, or viruses.  

Dr. Mary Beth Leininger, the associate vice president of Veterinary Relations, Hartville Pet Insurance Group told Medical Daily in an email she agreed that dog mouths should be kept far away from human ones for precisely this reason.

“Because dogs frequently lick around the anus, they can harbor parasite eggs in the saliva,” wrote Leininger. “Should you allow your dog to lick your child’s face? The short answer….no.”

According to Dr. Joseph Mosquera, chief medical officer and founder of medical expert-run website saludmovil.com, it’s not just gastrointestinal problems that dogs can spread among their owners.

"In my experience I have seen a lot of skin and respiratory allergies, body funguses like ring worm, and transmission of lyme disease through a tick that jumps from a pet onto a human after being outside," Mosquera wrote to Medical Daily.

Dogs aren't the only pet that can make you sick—it’s important to be careful around cats as well. And, while cats may not eat feces, they can still have it on their claws which becomes a problem if you get scratched. 

One particularly foul disease that spreads to humans through their feline friends is Cat Scratch Disease. Although rare, a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the number of cat scratch disease cases seem to be one the rise, with incidences highest in the U.S. southern states, and in households with children between the ages of 5 and 9. The illness is a bacterial infection that's spread either by allowing a cat to lick an open wound or through a new scratch or bite from kitty.  

Cat scratch disease is spread to cats from infected fleas and, according to the CDC, the best way to prevent the disease is to give your cat regular flea treatment and to try to keep it indoors rather than outside. Washing your hands after playing with your pet can also be helpful.

Read Here:

Cat Scratch Disease Is More Dangerous And Common Than You Realize, CDC Report Suggests: Read Here

Cat Scratch Disease And Toxoplasmosis: Prevention Tips For Illnesses You Can Catch From Your Feline Pets: Read Here

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