Dog Saliva Myths Busted Wide Open

dog saliva

When your beloved pooch showers you with slobbery kisses, you probably don’t even consider if his dog saliva is harmful. Maybe you don’t give it a second thought because of the adage that a dog’s mouth is cleaner than a human’s. Because of this belief, there are many fallacies regarding saliva healing powers. But is dog saliva antiseptic? Can dog saliva heal wounds in humans as well as in dogs?

In this article, we discover whether the myths surrounding dog saliva are true along with some fascinating facts about your pooch’s slobber.

Is Dog Saliva Clean?

There is no doubt that dog saliva is dirty. After all, dogs raid garbage from the trash can, lick butts, and eat or chew disgusting things. They also have a broad mixture of more than 600 types of bacteria. But probably why people say a dog’s mouth is cleaner than ours is because much of the bacteria found in dog saliva is not zoonotic, so you cannot get infected by your pooch licking you.

Often the bacteria that make a dog sick is specific to their species and not transferable to humans. However, dog saliva can consist of some unpleasant commuters that are a risk to you, especially roundworm. If an infected dog licks his anus and then gives you a slobbery kiss, roundworm eggs can attach onto his tongue and pass onto you. You might then touch the infected saliva without realizing it and accidentally give yourself roundworm. If you do suspect you have worms, consult your doctor straight away. Your dog will also need to visit the vet immediately for treatment.

You can prevent parasites in your dog by following a proper deworming program. It is also possible for you to contract other diseases such as salmonella from dog saliva. Dogs fed a raw diet are particularly susceptible to this disease, so you shouldn’t let them lick you.

How Does Dog Saliva Heal Wounds?

When a dog injures himself, he needs comfort from the pain. Instinctively he licks his wounds. The dog’s rough tongue helps remove any impurities in an open wound such as dirt and debris, lowering the risk of infection and contamination. The saliva then forms a film of coolness over the top of the wound, which numbs the area and reduces the pain.

However, licking won’t cure all your dog’s injuries, and sometimes veterinary treatment is necessary. Excessive licking of the paws can lead to infection or injury known as lick granuloma or hot spots. Vets often recommend that a dog who has undergone surgery wears a cone around his neck to prevent him from licking a surgical wound or stitches much to a pooch’s disgust.

Is Dog Saliva Antibacterial?

Dog saliva is believed to contain certain chemicals that are antibacterial. This theory is backed up by scientific research that has discovered that saliva consists of simple proteins called histatins. These histatins protect against infection, with some prompting cells to close over a wound more quickly. Other researchers have also found a protein in dog saliva called nerve growth factor (NGF), which heals the wound twice as fast as those that are untreated (i.e., not licked).

Does Dog Saliva Have Healing Properties?

The idea that saliva has healing properties dates to the ancient Egyptian and Greek cultures. They believed that a dog licking an open wound on a human could aid recovery and prevent disease and illness. So, is dog saliva good for wounds on people?

Although dog saliva may have some benefits, we don’t recommend that you let your pooch lick your wounds. A dog’s mouth comprises harmful bacteria such as pasteurella, which can cause infections like cellulitis if it finds its way into a deep cut. This disease can be severe, leading to possible amputations as well as being a life-threatening condition.

Children or anybody with a weak immune system should avoid any contact with dog saliva as they are most at risk of infection.

Can You Be Allergic to Dog Saliva?

Although often assumed that dog hair is an allergenic trigger, this isn’t always the case for many allergy sufferers. Several people have an allergic reaction to saliva because of the proteins and allergens that are in it. According to studies, there are at least 12 types of allergy-causing proteins in dog saliva. When a dog licks his coat, the saliva dries, and these proteins become airborne before being breathed in by the allergy sufferer, causing a reaction.

Researchers have concluded that dog saliva is more likely to cause allergic reactions than dog dander so, unfortunately, having a pooch with a non-shedding coat won’t help.

dog saliva

What Does Islam Say About Dogs and Dog Saliva?

There are several misconceptions regarding Islam and canines. Many people believe that Muslims dislike dogs or are not allowed to go near them as they are an impure animal. This myth is untrue. In Islam, dogs are not thought impure and Muslims are permitted to touch them. However, when it comes to saliva, Islam beliefs consider it to be dirty.

Any item that is contaminated by dog saliva must be washed thoroughly at least seven times, one of which should be with earth, such as mud or dust.

Does Dog Saliva Help Digestion?

Dog saliva aids digestion differently from that of humans. Unlike human saliva, there are no enzymes in dog saliva to break down food substances in the mouth. The dog saliva acts as a lubricant to push the food through the oesophagus to the stomach where the digestive process begins.

Is Dog Saliva Harmful?

A dog’s mouth is not cleaner than humans, just that most of the bacteria in dog saliva is canine specific and cannot harm us. However, dog saliva can be harmful to children and those with a weak immune system. It is okay if your pooch licks you, but always wash your hands and face afterward and avoid letting them kiss your mouth and nose.

Allowing a dog to lick your wounds is extremely dangerous and risks infection and severe illness. Knowing the facts about dog saliva should make you more cautious about letting your pooch kiss you in future.

References and Further Reading:

Bennett, N.T. and Schultz, G.S., 1993, “Growth Factors and Wound Healing: Part II. Role in Normal and Chronic Wound Healing,” The American Journal of Surgery, Vol. 166, Issue 1, pgs. 74-81

Finley, R., et al., 2006, “Human Health Implications of Salmonella-Contaminated Natural Pet Treats and Raw Pet Food,” Vol. 42, Issue 5, pgs. 686-691

Glickman, L.T. and Magnaval, J.F., 1993, “Zoonotic Roundworm Infections,” Infectious Disease Clinics of North America, Vol. 7, Issue 3, pgs. 717-732

Heddle, R.J. and Rowley, D., 1975, “Dog Immunoglobulins. II. The Antibacterial Properties of Dog IgA, IgM and IgG Antibodies to Vibrio Cholerae,” Immunology, Volume 29, Issue 1, pgs. 197-208

Kikuchi, K., et al., 2013, “Molecular Confirmation of Transmission Route of Staphylococcus intermedius in Mastoid Cavity Infection from Dog Saliva,” Journal of Infection and Chemotherapy, Vol. 10, Issue 1, pgs. 46-48

Oudhoff, M.J., et al., 2009, “Histatins Enhance Wound Closure with Oral and Non-oral Cells,” Journal of Dental Research

The Labrador Handbook by Pippa Mattinson

Polovic, N., 2013, “Dog Saliva – An Important Source of Dog Allergens,” European Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology

Isola, M. et al., 2011, “Nerve Growth Factor Concentrations in the Synovial Fluid From Healthy Dogs and Dogs with Secondary Osteoarthritis,” VCOT

Weber, D. et al., 1984, “Pasteurella Multocida Infections. Report of 34 Cases and Review of the Literature“, Europe PMC

The Labrador Site Founder

Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.

She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program 

Pippa's online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website