Is It Risky to Kiss Your Dog?
Due to media coverage on the “kissing bug,” pet parents are starting to ask their veterinarians if it’s ok to kiss their canine companions.
The kissing bug is a beetle-like insect that was native to South America and has since migrated to the United States. Also known as conenose bugs, assassin bugs, and vampire bugs, the kissing bug is a concern due to its ability to spread Trypanosoma cruzi (T. cruzi), which can infect both people and dogs alike. The kissing bug is named as such because of its propensity to bite around the lips and mouth. T. cruzi is a protozoan parasite that infects cells and can cause the deadly Chagas disease in people and their pets.
Can You Get Chagas Disease from Kissing Your Dog?
You cannot give or get T. cruzi or Chagas disease from kissing your dog. You or your dog can only get Chagas disease by being bitten by the insect that transmits the disease.
Areas where dogs are more commonly infected with Chagas disease also show an increase in Chagas disease in humans. This is believed to be due to both human and dog exposure to the kissing bug, not from transmission of T. cruzi between dog and human carriers. However, it is possible to get Chagas disease from being exposed to the blood from an open wound on your dog.
The Dangers of Kissing Your Dog
Are there dangers in kissing your dog? Yes, it is possible that you can take on bacteria from your dog’s fur or face if it’s contaminated. Also, the myth about the cleanliness of a dog’s mouth is rather misleading. Dogs’ mouths can be dirty and often contain harmful bacteria. A simple lick or kiss from a dog is unlikely to cause a problem, however, if that lick or kiss occurs on an open wound or to an individual with an immature or compromised immune system, it can spread bacteria or infection.
How to Protect Yourself from Dog Kisses
A dog kiss here and there probably won’t lead to infection, unless you have a compromised immune system or an open wound. The best thing to do is to wash your hands carefully after handling your dog or their food. Routinely deworm your dog and pick up there feces in the yard, and discourage your dog from eating their own feces. Overall, it can be risky to kiss your dog, so take caution when showing affection towards your furry friends.