advertisement



Q & A Library


Print this page | Sign up for free e-bulletins
 | Bookmark This Page

Q
Kissing Pets: Is It Safe?

My wife always kisses our dogs and cats, but I think it is disgusting. What's your take on it? Can diseases be transmitted from cats and dogs to humans by kissing?

A
Answer (Published 7/19/2013)

This is an issue that divides pet owners and veterinarians. Some pet owners kiss their pets regularly – and some vets kiss their animal patients as well as their own pets. And none of them are likely to change their ways, because it is, in fact, rare for diseases to be transmitted from pets to people.

Related Weil Products
Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging for Connecting - Did you know that people who have companion animals tend to be happier, more social and healthier? Find out more - start your 14-day free trial of the online guide, Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging - today!

A pet kissing debate among vets was most recently set off when the May 1, 2012, issue of the journal Veterinary Economics carried an article by veterinarian Christina Winn, who listed kissing her furry patients as one of her tactics for enhancing pet owner compliance. "Clients are more likely to follow your recommendation if they see that you love their pet as much as they do," Dr. Winn wrote. She did have some cautions about the practice such as, "Never kiss a growling patient." The article triggered a response from a group of vets in the anti-pet-kissing camp who pointed out that it is, indeed, possible to get a disease from a pet, prompting Dr.Winn to respond that she never said she kissed pets on the mouth and that she carries a travel-sized container of baby wipes to clean herself after each kiss.

It should be obvious that how you kiss a pet is a major determinant of risk. Are you talking about a peck on the muzzle or a mouth-to-mouth kiss in which saliva might be exchanged? It is not true, as some people believe, that dogs' mouths are cleaner than ours. Remember that dogs will eat unsanitary items they find in the street or in the garbage and that they use their tongues for cleaning and grooming themselves. Even though we don't commonly see dog owners – or vets – growing ill as a result of kissing companion animals, saliva exchange with dogs is not a good idea. (Since cats are by nature less exuberant animals than dogs, they're much less likely to engage in a mouth-to-mouth display of affection.)

Recently, Japanese researchers examined dental plaque from 66 dogs and 81 humans. The investigators' analysis of the plaque turned up 11 different types of oral bacteria, including three capable of causing dental disease, that were present in plaque from dogs and were also found, less frequently, in humans. However, the study did not address the question of whether the exchange of bacteria actually leads to gum disease in humans.

Disease transmission between humans and animals is called zoonosis. A report titled "Zoonoses in the Bedroom," from the University of California, Davis, published by the CDC journal Emerging Infectious Diseases in 2011, reviewed rare cases of transmission of serious diseases from pets to humans. Two examples: a housewife in the UK who regularly kissed the family dog developed bacterial meningitis caused by the bacteria P. multocida, and a 9-year-old boy whose flea-infested cat slept with him got plague. You can best protect yourself, the report concluded, by providing regular veterinary care for your pets to ensure that they're healthy and stay that way.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved Creative Commons Copyright Notice
A portion of the original material created by Weil Lifestyle, LLC on DrWeil.com (specifically, all question and answer-type articles in the Dr. Weil Q&A Library) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

The Weil Vitamin Advisor
Get your FREE personalized vitamin recommendation & supplement plan today!

Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging
Your Online Guide to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet. Start eating for your health - begin your free trial now.

Dr. Weil's Spontaneous Happiness
Achieve emotional well-being
in just eight weeks!
Start your 10-day free trial now!

Vitamin Library
Supplement your knowledge with Dr. Weil's essential vitamin facts. Learn why they are necessary and more.

Dr. Weil's Optimum Health Plan
Your 8-week plan to wellness.
Begin your journey today!
 

Dr. Weil's Head-to-Toe
Wellness Guide

Your guide to natural health.
Use the Wellness Guide today!

Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Diet Food Pyramid
Our interactive tool can help improve overall health through diet.

Condition Care Guide
Learn about health conditions from acne to vertigo, and Dr. Weil's view of the best treatment options for each.

Healthy Recipes
Discover a treasure trove of healthy, healing foods and creative, delicious ways to prepare them.

Q&A Library
Over 2,000 questions from you
and their corresponding answers
from Dr. Weil.

 
Copyright © 2014 Weil Lifestyle, LLC
Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment.

Ad Choice
Advertising Notice

This Site and third parties who place advertisements on this Site may collect and use information about your visits to this Site and other websites in order to provide advertisements about goods and services of interest to you. If you would like to obtain more information about these advertising practices and to make choices about online behavioral advertising, please click here