Mind

Joanita Wibowo

Should you stop kissing your pets?

Should you stop kissing your pets?

Giving your cat a peck or letting your dog kiss you on the mouth may be a part of your everyday routine. For many pet owners, this habit may seem like one of the many ways to show your affection to each other. However, common sense rebukes this as an unhygienic practice that may make the human sick.

So, what are the real risks of giving your pooch a smooch?  

The risks

Pets’ mouths and noses may have ventured to questionable places, such as litter boxes, trash bins or the bottom of other pets. Because of this, they may carry bacteria, viruses, parasites and germs all over their body from scratching and licking.

Viruses tend to affect one species and not the other – so you are unlikely to be affected by your pets’ cough. However, others can still play a part in transmitting zoonotic diseases to the owners. These may include:

  • Parasites: Hookworm, roundworm, Toxoplasma gondii and giardia
  • Bacteria: Salmonella, E coli, Staphylococcus, Campylobacter and more
  • Ringworm: Fungal infection on the skin or scalp

The effects of these harmful organisms range from stomach pain and fever to infections and birth defects.

Experts say these illnesses won’t typically be serious – however, people with weak immune systems are more likely to be affected, with higher risks of contracting diseases and experiencing complications.

This is why young children, pregnant women, the elderly and those with lower or compromised immune systems – including organ transplant recipients, people on cancer treatment – are advised to avoid kissing pets.

How to stay safe

Wash your hands after coming into contact with pets, pet food or pet bodily fluids such as saliva and waste.

Wherever possible, make sure that your mouth, nose and eyes stay clean. According to Mia L Geisinger, associate professor and director of the Advanced Education Program in Periodontology at the University of Alabama, the permeable mucous membranes in these areas are more vulnerable to germs from your pets.

Keep vaccinations up to date, and don’t forget to treat your pets for parasites and fleas regularly.