Myth #5—It’s OK to kiss your dog.
The reality: “A dog’s general mouth bacteria may be OK for us, but where the dog’s tongue has been, it’s not a clean environment,” says Dr. Rubin. (Think butt-licking, poop-sniffing encounters in the dog park, and such.) In fact, you can actually come down with salmonella poisoning after receiving a dog lick to the face!
While this may not deter everyone from face time with their loyal companion, people with weak immune systems, such as people living with HIV or undergoing chemotherapy, should refrain from getting schlecked on the face.
While dogs are inherently prone to licking gross things, there are some things you can do as a pet owner to keep your pet’s mouth as clean and free of dental disease as possible. The gold standard is brushing your dog’s teeth. (NEVER use human toothpaste, though; it could contain xylitol, a substance that causes a precipitous drop in blood sugar, leading to hypoglycemia and possibly death in dogs. Always use toothpaste designed for your pet.)
Some dogs, such as golden retrievers and labs, could benefit from rope bones. As they cart the rope with knotted ends around like a bone in their mouth, it can actually mechanically clean teeth to a certain extent. The right-size ridged Kong toy can do the same.