Loading...
Off the Leash Off the Leash

Is it OK to kiss your pet?

Pucker up for controversy.

By Vetstreet Mar 1, 2013 5:19PM

By Dr. Marty Becker

There’s a controversy in veterinary medicine that divides the profession, and it’s over something that many pet owners never give a second thought: kissing your pets. As you might imagine, I have some thoughts on this topic. Because, yes, I kiss my pets, and yes, I know I probably shouldn’t.

Photo: Should you kiss your pets? /iStockTo kiss or not to kiss

Not long ago, Dr. Christina Winn came out in favor of pet kissing in a Veterinary Economics cover piece. Dr. Winn was looking at ways to develop better communications with pet owners so pets will be more likely to get the care they need. The antikissing contingent blew her a raspberry soon after, with a letter signed by a handful of veterinarians, including my good friend Dr. Tony Johnson, a clinical assistant professor of critical care at the Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine. Their point: It is indeed possible to catch something from such close contact with a pet.

I’ve taken this issue on, in very public ways, and I have to admit that I can see both sides. I still remember doing a segment on Good Morning America about zoonotic diseases, or those that are transmissible from animals to humans.

Looking right into the camera and pointing to my mouth for emphasis, I said, “It’s really not a good idea to let your pets kiss or lick you on the mouth.”

Upward of 4 million people heard my recommendation, and probably 3.9 million pet owners, including me, ignored my good advice. In fact, the evening after that show, I pulled into the garage at our Almost Heaven Ranch and opened the door of the pickup to Quixote, our 16-pound canine cocktail.

“Ah, you want to give daddy some sugars?” I said. And he did.

Can't help myself

Despite recent studies about the transmission of bacteria between pets and people causing dental disease, I continue to let my pets give me kisses. And I do so knowing where those mouths have been. And while I know that my pets are in the very best of health — with regular brushings and dental cleanings under anesthesia when necessary — I don’t draw the line there. I kiss my patients when I’m practicing too. Within reason, of course: Sick, scared or aggressive pets get a pass.

Kissing pets is popular, sensible or not. While disease transmission does happen now and then, it’s usually more of an annoyance (such as ringworm) than a threat. A few months ago my wife and I tapped into the furnomenon by running a kissing booth at a local dog fair to raise money for our local animal shelter. Teresa and our two 16-pound doorbells, Quixote and Quora, worked the booth for two hours, raising more than $50 in that time. That was a slurp every two-and-a-half minutes. Teresa even got a kiss from a Jack Russell terrier who rode by on his own horse. (No, I’m not making that up.)

Kiss away ... with caution

But back to the risks. Shortly after the study about the transfer of oral bacteria from pets to people came out, I talked with Dr. Richard E. Besser, a pediatrician and the former acting head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the current ABC News chief health and medical editor.

“What do you think about this, Dr. Becker?” he asked me, to which I replied, “When’s the last time you ever heard or read of a veterinarian dying of a zoonotic disease or having no teeth from dental disease?” 

“Exactly,” replied Dr. Besser. “I’m still kissing my dogs!”

And so am I.

More from Vetstreet:
5 popular dog breeds this veterinarian wants to see less of
5 once-popular breeds that are disappearing
Pictures: 11 unforgettable animal smiles
My dog has a gay tail. What does that mean?
A veterinarian’s surprise confession

Photo: Should you kiss your pets? /iStock

287Comments
May 13, 2013 6:42PM
avatar
The highlight of my day is getting home from work and having my two little dogs jump up to kiss me on the lips. I wouldn't have it any other way.
Mar 8, 2013 12:03AM
avatar
AND, what pet owner has never shared their ice cream cone with their "fur"ever child?  Or let them lick something off a spoon and then continue to use that spoon?  Yep, ice cream and cereal milk are their favorites and I don't think twice about doing it.  But I wouldn't use someone else's toothbrush (that's just gross).  We all have our standards!
Mar 7, 2013 11:54PM
avatar

Everyone who lets their dog lick their faces should remember that dogs also lick their butts!

 

Mar 7, 2013 11:33PM
avatar
What's wrong with a little peck on the forehead? There's nothing there that could hurt you. I think it's kind of automatic to want to kiss your pet(s). After all they're like family right? We all kiss our family, but no tongues. 
Mar 7, 2013 6:28PM
avatar
thats gross! no its not ok!! thats exactly why I dont eat after people! kissing on animals that carry all types of feces diseases and parasites! ugh!
Mar 6, 2013 6:09AM
avatar
I'll never forget the time my best friend and room mate Mickey's black Belgaum male german sheppard named panther was licking his girlfriends private part when I walked in on him while returning home from work as a waiter in the kosher hotels of Miami Beach Fla. back in the early 70's. Now that was a real shocker known as Bestiality, I almost puked my guts out but the woman did enjoy the love licking. Gosh people can be so very disgusting
Mar 6, 2013 5:03AM
avatar
Having read the comments and replies to the comments, I have to say this. I understand how some could see it as disgusting to kiss a pet (germs, where their mouths have been, etc.), but as a pet owner myself and I'm sure 99.9% of pet owners would agree, the fur babies are more than just pets. They are family. It's just a showing of appreciation to have them in our lives and a small showing of love we develop for them. A parent wouldn't refuse to show love for their child, so why is it wrong to show a bit of the same  to what really amounts to another child in the household? (albeit a really furry child.)
Mar 6, 2013 4:55AM
avatar

i kiss my male cat all the time his name is casanova need i say more :)

Report
Please help us to maintain a healthy and vibrant community by reporting any illegal or inappropriate behavior. If you believe a message violates theCode of Conductplease use this form to notify the moderators. They will investigate your report and take appropriate action. If necessary, they report all illegal activity to the proper authorities.
Categories
100 character limit
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?

pics, advice, info and stories for pet lovers

  • Shaving dog (Credit: Thinkstock)

    10 dog breeds that shed the most and least

    We asked veterinary experts and readers which breeds they think and if it is OK to shave longhaired pets in the summer.

  • Maine Coon

    12 kid-friendly cat breeds

    If you're searching for a breed that may enjoy the company of a kid, we have some great suggestions for you.

  • Labrador Retriever

    9 large dogs that can be good for families

    When searching for the right dog to add to your family, your first instinct might be to bring home a tiny little thing that your kids can cradle in their laps. But we're here to remind you that the best fit for you may be a large dog breed.

  • Akita

    11 stubborn dog breeds

    Many breeds were developed to do work that required them to act independently. Those dogs tend to be smart, but as family pets, they may need more leadership and training than others. Ultimately, though, they’re worth it. Here are 11 dog breeds that tend to have independent personalities.

  • Chimera cat with interesting facial colors

    13 pets with cool coats and markings

    Many of us here at Vetstreet are fascinated by pets who have unique coats and cool shapes hidden in their markings. So we asked our Facebook fans to share pictures of animals that have interesting coloration, and you did not disappoint. From mustachioed cats to a horse of a different color, here are our 13 favorite photos of pets with cool coats.

  • Jack Russell Terrier

    Dog breeds most likely to chew something up and land in the ER

    We surveyed 284 veterinary professionals (including vets, veterinary technicians and office staff) to see which breeds they felt were most likely to chew something they shouldn't and wind up in the veterinary emergency room, and we've listed the top five answers below. Do you agree with their opinions? Which breeds would you add to the list?

  • ​Simone Pievani, Getty Images // ​Simone Pievani, Getty Images (​Simone Pievani, Getty Images)

    Help your pet brave the Fourth of July fireworks

    This Fourth of July, Americans will celebrate with the sights and sounds of fireworks. While we love the pyrotechnics, it's important to remember that our patriotic midsummer spectacular is no holiday for many of our pets.

  • Sadie the dog was rescued from a cliff at Kenai Fjords National Park by ranger John Anderson. Mark Thompson, National Park Service, Facebook // Sadie the dog was rescued from a cliff at Kenai Fjords National Park by ranger John Anderson. Mark Thompson, National Park Service, Facebook (Sadie the dog was rescued from a cliff at Kenai Fjords National Park by ranger John Anderson. Mark Thompson, National Park Service, Facebook)

    Ranger saves dog from cliff

    By Vetstreet Editors

  • Lux and Barron show off their patriotism

    8 patriotic pups who are ready for the Fourth of July

    It's Independence Day — and we're celebrating our freedom and everything American. Before you light up the grill or head out to catch the fireworks, take a moment to check out these fun photos of patriotic pups. We hope you have a wonderful holiday and, as always, remember to keep your pets safe.

  • Getty Images

    31 problems only dog owners understand

    You love him so much, but you put up with a lot for your pup.

  • 10 Strange Cat Behaviors Explained

    10 strange cat behaviors explained

    There's no denying that cats are excellent companions, but sometimes they do something that leaves you scratching your head in total confusion. If you're used to dogs, cats' social interactions and the way they communicate can be very confusing. Yet it's these special behaviors, like affectionate head-butting and their penchant for cardboard boxes, that make us love them so much. To help you better understand your elusive feline, we rounded up 10 cat behaviors that people commonly consider mysterious. You'll find that many of these habits aren't weird at all for cats -- they're normal. Click through this slideshow to learn more about mysterious feline habits and what they mean.

  • Donna, a military bomb-sniffing dog, was reunited with her handler in Houston Saturday. Courtesy My Fox Philly // Donna, a military bomb-sniffing dog, was reunited with her handler in Houston Saturday. Courtesy My Fox Philly (Donna, a military bomb-sniffing dog, was reunited with her handler in Houston Saturday. Courtesy My Fox Philly)

    Firefighters save cat using CPR

    Soldier the cat is now recovering thanks to a special oxygen mask used for reviving animals.

Loading...
buzzing now on msn living
Loading...
family videos
editor's pick
Loading...