Don't smooch the pooch!

Experts warn that owners who kiss their dogs on the mouth may be putting themselves at risk for transmission of gum disease from their furry friends. A peck could mean that dangerous mouth bacteria could swap mouths.

Gum disease can lead to periodontitis if left untreated. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, periodontitis is the inflammation and infection of the muscles and bones that hold the teeth. Infection of the gums can spread to the bones and ligaments. The loss of support that the condition causes can lead to teeth becoming loose and even falling out.

Despite the fact that only 5 percent of dogs will suffer from cavities during their lifetime, periodontitis is a very common affliction in canines.

Japanese researchers performed a study last year on dental health in dogs and in their owners. They tracked a microbe that is very common in canines, but is much rarer in humans. But among pet owners, 16 percent of pet owners had the microbe, normally those with extremely close contact with their pets.

But germs could also be received from human to pet. The researchers found 10 human strains of periodontitis-related bacteria in the dogs' mouths. Even low levels of contact could be enough for germ transmission.

But a researcher from the Cornell University's College of Veterinary Medicine, Paul Maza, said that oral hygiene habits of both man and dog may dictate the risk of contamination.

Since many of the bacteria found in dogs and cats are the same found in humans, oral hygiene is crucial in pets. If owners practice good habits with their pets, like brushing their teeth, pets' mouths can be even cleaner than those of their owners.

And though pets' grooming habits may lead to fecal matter in their mouths, it is generally swallowed and out of the mouth very quickly. The warnings about kissing pets on the mouth should be heeded especially by people with compromised immune systems or the elderly.