Many people have heard the myth that a dog's mouth is cleaner than a human's. Today, our Houston County vets discuss how clean a dog's mouth really is.
Cleanliness of a Dog's Mouth Compared to Humans
Comparing a dog's mouth to a human's mouth is like comparing apples and oranges. While there is some overlap in the types of bacteria between species, dogs' mouths include a variety of dental bacteria that you won't discover in yours. Dogs' mouths contain about 600 different species of germs, compared to 615 and counting varieties in human mouths.
So in short, the answer is no.
However, there are similarities. Porphyromonas, for example, is a bacterial family that causes periodontal disease in both canines and humans. Billions of germs slowly accumulate on the surface of the teeth, causing bad breath, gum recession, tooth root abscesses, and bone damage around the tooth roots.
Early stages of periodontal disease are treatable in both dogs and humans with at-home dental care, and dogs, like humans, require regular professional dental cleanings.
Catching Infections & Diseases From Dog Saliva
The chance of germs being transmitted to humans through a dog's saliva is extremely minimal. However, it does still have a chance of happening. Through their saliva, dogs can spread bacterial and viral illnesses. If a dog bites you or saliva goes into your nose, mouth, or eyes, these can be transmitted.
A dog bite can transmit the bacteria Capnocytophaga canimorsus through the bite wound, resulting in a serious bacterial infection in humans. Another, Pasteurella canis, is the most common bacteria found in a dog's mouth; it is also the most common organism found in a person who has been bitten by a dog. The severity of a dog bite wound is determined by the location of the wound and whether the person is immunocompromised or vulnerable in some other way.
If you are bitten by a dog, wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water for 15 minutes before seeking medical attention. If your dog consumes food contaminated with Salmonella or E. coli, these pathogens may be transmitted to you if your dog's slobber enters your mouth. A raw food diet is more prone to contamination, but any dog food can become contaminated.
The most serious infection that dogs can transmit through their saliva is rabies. It's a virus that spreads when a dog bites someone. The virus infiltrates the nervous system, causing a variety of symptoms. Dogs themselves may exhibit anxiety and nervousness at first. Dogs become aggressive, uncoordinated, and disoriented in later stages.
If you see a dog (or wild animal) exhibiting these symptoms, contact your local animal control or police department and keep your distance. When a dog, person, or wild animal develops symptoms of rabies, it is almost always fatal.
Letting Your Dog Lick Your Face
Because your skin absorbs saliva poorly, there is little risk of infection if a dog licks your skin (as long as they are not licking a wound). If you are allergic to dog saliva, your skin may develop hives, a rash, and/or become extremely itchy.
Cleaning Your Dog's Mouth
Proper dog dental care, and learning how to clean your dog's teeth, are essential in making sure your dog's mouth is as clean and safe as possible. One of the easiest ways to do this is to bring your dog in for a dental appointment. We recommend at least once a year or more if your dog is suffering from some sort of dental disease (like periodontitis).
When you bring your dog to Smith Animal Hospital for a dental checkup our vets will perform a full oral examination for your pooch and check for signs of dental issues, such as:
- Extra teeth or retained baby teeth
- Bleeding around the mouth
- Swelling or pain in or around the mouth
- Plaque or tartar buildup on teeth
- Discolored teeth
- Loose or broken teeth
- Bad breath
If left untreated, oral health problems can become severe, causing your pet a great deal of pain and discomfort. If you notice signs of periodontal disease in your pet, such as decreased appetite (which can indicate tooth pain), abnormal chewing, drooling, dropping food from the mouth, bad breath, or other symptoms, contact your veterinarian right away to schedule a dental appointment for your pet.
We clean and polish your dog's teeth thoroughly, both above and below the gum line. We probe and X-ray the teeth, then use a fluoride treatment before applying a dental sealant to help prevent future decay and damage. If your dog has advanced periodontal disease, we will collaborate with you to create a treatment plan to help restore its mouth to a pain-free and healthy state.
Brushing Your Dog's TeethAs a pet owner, you play an important role in assisting your dog in fighting dental disease. Here are a few simple ways you can help keep your dog's mouth healthy and clean his teeth:
- Brush your pet's teeth daily with a finger brush from your vet or a child's toothbrush to remove any plaque or debris. It's as straightforward as brushing your own teeth. If your dog is resistant to having its teeth cleaned, try some doggie toothpaste in flavors that your dog will love. This dog-friendly toothpaste can transform a chore into a treat.
- Use a plaque prevention product (your vet can recommend some), which you can apply to your pet’s teeth and gums. These products act as a barrier to prevent plaque buildup.
- Offer your pup treats such as dental chews or food designed to help prevent plaque buildup and tartar.
Dental care is an important part of your pet's overall health. Be sure to book your pet's annual dental appointment today, your dog will thank you.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.