Fact check: You probably won’t get sick from kissing your dog
A new study says the practice of feeding dogs a raw meat-based diet is on the rise, and with it, the chances of harmful bacteria being transferred from dog to owner.
“A great opportunity for dogs to transfer potential pathogenic and antimicrobial-resistant bacteria to humans is by ‘kissing’ people in the face immediately after they have eaten,” said researchers.
“We already know that raw meat is going to have a number of different bacteria in it, and those potentially can be harmful,” Tetro told Global News. “So there is an obvious chance that if a dog is eating raw meat, then in that saliva — right after they’ve eaten — there could be the potential for these bugs to be there and to be transmitted to somebody else.”
But the bacteria — and the risk — only stick around for a few hours.
“Upon ingesting these foods, the saliva of the dogs are going to produce immune molecules which are going to help prevent the spread of these particular bacteria,” said Tetro, so you simply need to wait a while before you smooch your dog again.
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According to Tetro, the only way bacteria can be transmitted from dog to human is through blood, so open wound dog licking and dog biting are the only times you should be worried.
“You’re not going to be exposing your blood to your dog during a kiss!” Tetro said.
However, the same is not true for the reverse: You can transfer your bacteria to your dog through kissing as a result of poor hygiene.
“Wash your hands after touching the food and keep an eye on any contamination of the environment by the food,” said Tetro. “This is basic human hygiene and should be given even more attention when dealing with raw food.”
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Researchers in the study also warn against the transfer of bacteria through the handling and storage of food, the dog’s feed bowls and the possible contamination of kitchen equipment.
Tetro says that transferring bacteria this way is more likely than kissing, but there is an easy three-step process you can follow to avoid contamination.
“Ensure that the food remains below 4 C to reduce the growth of bacteria,” said Tetro. Freezing is the best way to do this.
“You shouldn’t leave the food above 15 C for longer than one hour.”
“Just as you do when preparing raw meat for dinner, make sure everything is done separately from other foods.”
Tetro recommends having utensils and dishes strictly devoted to handling the raw meat.
“Bacteria dies at 74 C, so if you can use very hot water, that will help,” Tetro said.
“You may also want to use safe disinfectants such as hydrogen peroxide to reduce the levels of bacteria. It’s best to use non-porous items for your dishes as this makes it easier to clean them.”
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