Is Dog’s Saliva Harmful?

Dogs' licking and salivating on us is common!

Is Dog’s Saliva Harmful?

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Many of us do not think twice about the saliva coming out of our dog’s mouth when we bend down for a kiss. The affection between humans and their pets is not uncommon. However, what is common is the lack of education about animal’s saliva, its bacteria, and how it affects humans and pets.

Understanding

According to Dr Colin Harvey, emeritus professor of surgery and dentistry at the School Of Veterinary Medicine at University Of Pennsylvania, “Human saliva has a PH of 6.5 to 7, the saliva of dogs and carnivores, in general, is slightly alkaline, approximately 7.5 to 8.” The importance of this difference is that dogs do not get dental cavities almost as often as humans. The slightly alkaline nature of dog saliva buffers the acid that is produced by some bacteria that are the cause of the enamel of the tooth being eroded away.”

As dog saliva gets in touch with healthy human skin, particularly in a healthy person, it is very unlikely to cause any problems, as there will be very little absorption through the skin. Small amounts of dog saliva on your skin or clothing will not hurt you at all.

Dog saliva is an antibacterial. “The saliva contains antibacterial chemicals and it is very unlikely that the saliva itself would be a direct cause of the infection.” Say, Harvey. “We often see dogs licking their wounds and that is the cleaning action and also antibacterial action to promote the healing of a surface wound.” Licking, of course, will not cure all superficial infections in dogs, so veterinary visits are often necessary.

Benefits of Dog’s Saliva

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The belief in the therapeutic power of dog licking goes back to ancient Egypt and continued over time. In modern France, the medical proverb says that “the dog’s tongue is the tongue of the doctor.” Recent research has identified products in saliva that really help in healing.

Researchers in the Netherlands identified a chemical in pet saliva called histatin. Histatins accelerate the healing of wounds by promoting the spread and migration of new skin cells.

Dr Nigel Benjamin of the London School of Medicine showed that when saliva gets in contacts with the skin it creates nitric oxide. Nitric oxide prevents the growth of bacteria and protects the wounds from infection.

Furthermore, researchers at the University of Florida have secluded a protein in saliva called a ‘Nerve Growth Factor’ that halves the time for wound healing.

Generally speaking, though, dog’s saliva does not pose as much risk to most people. People suffering from compromised immune systems, or those who are too young or too old should avoid the risk of infection from dog’s saliva. Also, be sure to treat your dogs for fleas, ticks, worms, rabies and other parasites. Avoid contact with dog’s droppings and make sure you wash your hands carefully after exposure. Even though Fido cures his cut and bruises with saliva, do not let the dog lick an open wound on a human.

Updated: September 21, 2017.

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