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Are Dogs’ Mouths Cleaner than Humans’ Mouths? Myths Busted!

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Are dogs’ mouths cleaner than human mouths? Can dog licks heal wounds? Let’s take a deeper look as to whether dog saliva is actually safer than the human mouth.

Most of us have heard the false but popular claim that dogs have cleaner mouths than humans. Both species’ mouths are home to a host of entirely different types of dental bacteria. So comparing human mouths to dog mouths is like comparing oranges to apples; it’s pretty absurd to do. 

However, it’s understandable to believe the myth that dogs’ mouths are cleaner than humans. This is because most dog diseases can’t easily spread to humans and vice versa through saliva. In the long run, both species have pretty dirty mouths, and because of the vast differences, you can’t tell the cleaner mouth.

Why Some People Believe Dogs Have Cleaner Mouths Than Humans

Dogs’ mouths are home to billions of bacteria that are a different species from those found in humans’ mouths.  A dog’s oral microbiome is an ecosystem unique to their species. Luckily, most of these bacteria don’t cause zoonotic diseases, which are transferable from one species to another. 

A dog is unlikely to infect you with influenza the same way you can’t transmit the common cold. An exception is the recent COVID-19, where some human-to-dog transmissions were present.  Still, you’d be better off getting kisses from your dog than a sick human because it is easier to catch viruses from other people than dogs.

However, you can still catch plenty of bacteria from dogs.

Dogs consume some rancid stuff like dead animals and poop. The disgusting delicacies coupled with fewer oral hygiene practices in dogs cause stinky breath in dogs. Some people fail to brush their pup’s teeth due to the myth that dogs have cleaner mouths than humans. False! False! False!

If your dog’s breath is horrid enough to make you recoil from your beloved pup, a dog mouthwash is the right product for you. The PawSafe natural dog mouthwash will transform your dog’s breath from rotten-smelling to fresh in an instant. The natural dental formula keeps your dog safe as the mouthwash works on the oral bacteria. 

But good and consistent dental hygiene is important for dogs, even if they don’t have bad breath. Like humans, the bacteria in their mouths can cause a range of health issues, from tooth decay, to heart disease or diabetes.

Other myths hail from the belief that dogs have a clean mouth; call them “sub-myths”, if you may. To debunk these myths, keep in mind that you can’t possibly compare the cleanliness of human and dog mouths. We know that dogs don’t brush nearly as much as humans, and they consume some yucky substances. 

Does Dog Saliva Heal Wounds Faster?

Does Dog Saliva Heal Wounds Faster?

Some defenders of the cleanliness of dogs’ mouths go as far as to claim that dog saliva healed their wounds. But is this miracle true? Will your dog magically heal your wounds once they lick them? We don’t believe it, and here’s why. 

Most mammals, including prehistoric humans, lick their wounds. Saliva itself contains proteins called histatins that can help combat infections. That explains why you instinctively place your cut finger into your mouth after yelling “ouch.” Of course, too much licking can lead to self-mutilation because the wound gets irritated, which is why dogs wear the “cone of shame” after an operation.

While it’s true that saliva has some wound healing properties, it’s probably wise to hold off on the doggy licks, at least until you heal. Dogs still have countless oral bacteria that are harmless in the mouth but will wreak havoc upon contact with an open wound. Some have suffered amputated limbs, coma, or even death because their beloved pets licked their open wounds, infecting them and causing sepsis. 

We want you to keep your arms and legs, so keep your dog from licking your wounds. Effective treatments for injuries are available thanks to modern-day technological advancements in the medical field. Your pup may have a truly horrid breath that you can’t let near your wounds, as it is often a sign of a bacterial infection.

The numerous bacteria in your pup’s mouth should be enough to convince you to steer clear of dog saliva when you have wounds. Dogs have stinky breaths because their mouths aren’t clean at all.

Is It Safe for Dogs to Lick Your face? 

Is It Safe for Dogs to Lick Your face? 

Yes and no. Even if your pup is sneezing and comes to give you a sloppy kiss, you probably won’t catch what they have. But not easily contracting diseases from your dog doesn’t mean that kisses are immediately safe. However, whether or not you allow your pup to kiss you is a very personal matter. We’re simply here to present you with facts. 

The chances are that you’ve caught your pup contently licking their anal area. Dogs lick their anus because of the anal glands, which produce a distinct smell for each dog. If the anal glands are affected, your dog may have fishy breath transferred from the anus to the mouth. 

Aside from dogs licking their private parts, they can be indiscriminate eaters with coprophagia or eat rotten items out of the garbage. Unless you brush your dog’s teeth daily, oral hygiene is also lacking, leading to bacterial accumulation. These make accepting dog kisses problematic because of the bacteria that may be spreading onto your face.

Luckily, most dogs’ oral bacteria are incompatible with our human mouths. However, be careful with dogs on a raw diet because they may have Salmonella and E. coli which are transmittable to humans. The skin on your face is quite resistant to absorbing dog saliva, but the eyes, ears, and mouth can offer passage. 

Broken or wounded skin can allow dog bacteria into your body, and these germs can infect the wound. Rabid dogs are extremely dangerous because rabies is infectious through bites and is fatal. In addition, immunocompromised people would do well to avoid dog saliva on wounds and the mouth. 

Final Words

The mouth of a dog isn’t cleaner than that of a human. Canines’ mouths are far from clean because they have billions of oral microbes along with those they pick up from their environments. The kind of bacteria in dogs’ mouths is completely different from those found in humans’. 

The difference in the kind of oral microbiota in humans and dogs explains why most diseases aren’t zoonotic. Most people think dogs have clean mouths because they rarely infect humans with diseases. Dogs have less oral hygiene because they can’t brush their teeth; that’s for the owners to do. Dog kisses aren’t exactly dangerous, but dogs eat rotten items making kisses undesirable. 


Tamsin De La Harpe


Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions.

Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

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