Myth or Reality? Dogs Have Cleaner Mouths than Humans

Photo: "Kona," Courtesy of Dr. Thenard

Photo: “Kona,” Courtesy of Dr. Thenard

Some urban legends are true. What about the one about dogs having cleaner mouths than humans? It’s hard to imagine that’s so when:

  1. Most dogs don’t own toothbrushes.
  2. They chew on sticks and raid the garbage can.
  3. They use their tongues as personal washcloths.
  4. “Dog breath” has a reputation for a reason.

But we haven’t come to a conclusion yet. Before dismissing the possibility altogether, let’s explore some reasons why doggie kisses are often considered as sanitary as they are cute.

  • Dogs typically don’t pass on their illnesses to humans. According to ABC News, that’s because most dog bacteria are species specific, just as a staph or strep from a human is not transmissible to a dog.
  • Dogs help their wounds heal by licking.
  • Dogs are the second most popular pet in the U.S. (following cats), and are often considered members of the family. If being affectionate is one trait that makes them so popular, it’s no surprise that their kisses are viewed in a favorable light.

Taking all this into consideration, the fact remains that human mouths are cleaner. However, the American Veterinary Medical Association offers some great advice to pet owners on improving the cleanliness of their dogs’ mouths:

  • Brush your dog’s teeth every day or at least several times a week – 80% of all dogs show signs of periodontal disease by the age of 2.
  • Gum disease is the most diagnosed problem in dogs, so offer chew treats to help remove plaque from your dog’s teeth.
  • Dogs often lose their teeth from gum disease, so maintain regular dental checkups with your pet’s vet.
  • Beware of symptoms that dental disease has already started in your pet’s mouth. These include: reluctance to eat hard foods, red swollen gums, and frequent pawing at the face.

Which animal has the most teeth – a crocodile, a dolphin, or a snail? Read our blog: Why Our Teeth Chatter and Other Fun Facts to find out!

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