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Is a dog's mouth cleaner than a human's?

While you likely don't think of your dog as having a dirty mouth, have you ever wondered how clean it actually is? Here, our Bedford vets answer the question, 'Is a dog's mouth cleaner than a human's?' and discuss how to clean a dog's mouth.

Dental Care for Dogs

A dog's mouth and a human's mouth are very different. While there is some overlap in the types of bacteria between species, a dog's mouth contains several dental bacteria that you will not find in yours. A dog's mouth contains approximately 600 different species of germs, as opposed to the 615 and counting varieties in the human mouth.

However, there are also some similarities. Porphyromonas, for example, is a bacterial family that causes periodontal disease in humans and dogs. Billions of germs slowly accumulate on the teeth's surface, resulting in bad breath, gum recession, tooth root abscesses, and bone damage around the roots.

Early periodontal disease stages are treatable in dogs and humans with at-home teeth cleaning and regular professional veterinary dental care and dental cleanings.

Can I get infections or diseases from my dog licking me?

While bacteria can't be easily transmitted from your dog to you, it still can occur. A dog’s saliva can spread bacterial and viral infections. They can be transmitted if a dog bites you or saliva enters your nose, mouth, or eyes.

Bacterial Infections

A dog bite can transmit the bacteria Capnocytophaga canimorsus into the bite wound, causing a serious bacterial infection in humans. Pasteurella canis is the most common bacteria in a dog's mouth and the most common organism in people whom a dog has bitten. The wound's location determines the severity of a dog bite and whether the person is immunocompromised or otherwise vulnerable.

If a dog has bitten you, thoroughly clean the wound with soap and water for 15 minutes before seeking medical attention.

Rabies Virus

The most serious infection that dogs can spread through their saliva is rabies. It is a virus that can be transmitted when a dog bites someone. The virus infects the nervous system, resulting in a variety of symptoms. Initially, dogs may show signs of anxiety and nervousness. In the late stages, dogs become aggressive, uncoordinated, and disoriented.

If you see a dog (or wild animal) with these symptoms, call your local animal control or police department and stay away. Rabies is usually fatal.

Is my dog's saliva bad for my skin?

Skin does not absorb saliva quickly. This means that getting licked by your dog poses little risk of infection (as long as they do not lick an open wound). If you are allergic to dog saliva, you may experience hives, a rash, and/or extreme itching.

How to Clean a Dog's Mouth

Proper dog dental care and learning how to clean your dog's teeth are essential in keeping your dog's mouth as clean and safe as possible. One of the easiest ways to do this is to bring your dog in for a dental appointment. We recommend it at least once a year or more if your dog suffers from some dental disease (like periodontitis).

When you bring your dog to Fine Animal Hospital for a dental checkup, our vets will perform a full oral examination for your pooch and check for signs of dental issues, such as:

  • Extra teeth or retained baby teeth
  • Bleeding around the mouth
  • Swelling or pain in or around the mouth
  • Plaque or tartar buildup on teeth
  • Discolored teeth
  • Loose or broken teeth
  • Bad breath

If left untreated, oral health issues can become severe, causing your dog significant pain and discomfort. If you notice signs of periodontal disease in your dog, such as decreased appetite (which can indicate tooth pain), abnormal chewing, drooling, dropping food from the mouth, bad breath, or other symptoms, call your veterinarian immediately to schedule a dental appointment.

At Fine Animal Hospital, we thoroughly clean and polish your dog's teeth above and below the gum line. We X-ray the teeth and then use a fluoride treatment before applying a dental sealant to help prevent future decay and damage. If your dog has advanced periodontal disease, we will create a treatment plan to help restore your dog's mouth to a pain-free and healthy state.

Should I brush my dog's teeth?

You play an essential role in caring for your dog's oral health. Here are some tips on how to clean your dog's teeth:
  • Brush your dog's teeth daily with a fingerbrush or a small toothbrush if you can't find a fingerbrush to remove plaque or debris. It's as straightforward as brushing your teeth. If your dog resists cleaning its teeth, try doggie toothpaste in flavors your dog will love. This dog-friendly toothpaste can transform a chore into a treat.
  • Use a plaque prevention product (your vet can recommend some), which you can apply to your dog's teeth and gums. These products act as a barrier to prevent plaque buildup.
  • Offer your pup treats, such as dental chews or food designed to help prevent plaque buildup and tartar.

Dental care is an important part of your dog's overall health. Be sure to book their annual dental appointment today. Your dog will thank you. 

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Would you like to book an appointment for your dog's routine dental exam and cleaning? Contact Fine Animal Hospital to schedule a visit today.

We're accepting new patients! Book your pet's first appointment today.

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