But many people are either unaware – or don’t care – that allowing a dog or cat to kiss your face can lead to serious bacterial infections, which can lead to potential loss of limbs or even, in some cases, be fatal!
People generally fall into one of two camps when it comes to letting your pet’s tongue touch your lips.
One is “give me more,” while the other says, “no thanks.”
While puppy and kitty kisses can be adorable, if you consider where that animal’s tongue has been – their nether region, eating poop-stained grass – the expression of love might not seem so cute anymore.
Moreover, while your fur baby is getting to lick a clean area of your skin, what he’s leaving behind can be life-threatening to the human.
One TikTok user says, “Do you kiss your dog on the mouth? Because if so, it’s time to stop.”
The user, who goes by the handle “medexplained2you,” is a PA (physician’s assistant) who writes the disclaimer on his profile lest anyone be angered later on, “not professional medical advice.”
“You could actually lose your limbs over it.” He continues, “I’m unfortunately not kidding, because kissing your dog on the mouth can actually cause an infection with something called Capnocytophaga Canimorsus.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention, Capnocytophaga is a bacteria that lives inside the mouths of dogs and cats. The germs, that do not make cats or dogs sick, can spread to humans through scratches, bites, and other close forms of contact with domesticated pets.
The CDC writes, “Capnocytophaga infection can cause serious complications, including heart attack, kidney failure, and gangrene. Some people may need to have fingers, toes, or even limbs amputated because of complications from severe infection.”
The CDC reports that people who have the infection will start showing symptoms within three to five days, and about 3 in 10 people who develop a severe infection (like sepsis) will die.
While it is rare, rapid progression of the infection leading to death has been reported in people who are immunocompromised. The elderly, those who consume a lot of alcohol, and people without a spleen are also at a greater risk.
Warning people about the potential dangers of having pet saliva in or on your mouth, the TikTok user goes onto explain that “depending on how fast it progresses and when it’s diagnosed, amputation may become the only treatment.”
Kiss of death?
Over the past few years, there have been a few cases involving Capnocytophaga that have received a lot of attention.
In 2022, South African actress Charlbi Dean died unexpectedly in August from bacterial sepsis. The 32-year-old Triangle of Sadness actress had her spleen removed after a 2009 car crash, which family says might have contributed to the quick progression of the infection.
In Dean’s case, the medical examiner did not confirm if the infection was caused by an animal.
Earlier in 2019, Ohio’s Marie Trainer had both hands and legs amputated after getting a rare infection from a German shepherd puppy, Taylor, who licked an open cut. Despite almost dying, Trainer said she has no intention of parting with either of her two dogs and even had them visit her in hospital.
“They brought them here two times at the hospital so I can see them and that just put the biggest smile on my face,” she told CNN.
Meanwhile, in June 2018, the alarm was sounded when doctors found the bacteria Capnocytophaga canimorsus in two unrelated Wisconsin patients.
Milwaukee’s Sharon Larson, 58, died after a small nip by her dog and in the same month, Greg Manteufel, 48, of West Bend, had both his hands and lower legs amputated in a lifesaving surgery. Manteufel said he had been in contact with a few dogs, but not bitten.
Both Larson and Manteufel were reported as being healthy, suggesting that anyone is at risk for capnocytophaga.
The TikTok user warns, “Why not avoid all that trouble and stop tonguing your dog. Seems like an easy fix to me.”
But the majority of netizens were unimpressed by his advice and pet lovers scoffed over the suggestion of not kissing your fur child.
One user writes, “I’ve been doing it for 60 years and I still have all my limbs!!” A second shares, “Nah I’m just gonna have to take that risk… that’s my son.”
A third adds, “I’ll never stop. they’re not dogs, they’re my sons.”
Others found humor in the post, saying that dogs have cleaner mouths than some people.
“I’ve kissed a few dogs in my time but not the 4-legged kind,” shares one, while another writes, “Kissing my husband is not any better.”
Meanwhile, a handful of cybernauts appreciated the TikTok user’s advice.
One shares, “Absolutely agree!!!! I grew up knowing this. I can’t believe people let dogs kiss even kids’ mouth.” Another adds, “Louder please. So the ones with newborn babies stop thinking it’s cute to let the dog kiss the babies in the mouth.”