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

The saying "a dog's mouth is cleaner than a human's mouth" has been around for a long time, but is it true? Today, our Seattle vets tackle this age-old question.

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

A dog's mouth is very different from a human's mouth. While there is some overlap in the types of bacteria between species, a dog's mouth contains a number of 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.

So, in brief, the answer is no.

However, there are 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 stages of periodontal disease are treatable in both dogs and humans with at-home dental care. And dogs, like humans, require professional dental cleanings regularly.

Can you get infections and diseases from dog saliva?

The chances of germs being transmitted to humans via a dog's saliva are extremely low. However, it still has a chance of occurring. 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 found in a dog's mouth, as well as the most common organism found in people who have been bitten by a dog. The severity of a dog bite is determined by the wound's location and whether the person is immunocompromised or otherwise vulnerable.

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


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. When a dog, person, or wild animal develops rabies symptoms, the outcome is usually fatal.

Is it bad if your dog licks you then?

Because your skin absorbs saliva poorly, licking by a dog poses little risk of infection (as long as they do not lick a 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 making sure your dog's mouth is 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 at least once a year, or more if your dog is suffering from some sort of dental disease (like periodontitis).

When you bring your dog to Aurora Veterinary 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 pet, 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 right away to schedule a dental appointment.

At Aurora Veterinary Hospital, we clean and polish your dog's teeth thoroughly, both above and below the gum line. We probe and X-ray the teeth, 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?

As a pet owner, you play an important role in assisting your dog in fighting dental disease. Here are a few simple ways you can help keep your dog's mouth healthy:
  • Brush your dog's teeth daily with a finger brush, or a child's toothbrush if you can't find a finger brush, to remove any plaque or debris. It's as straightforward as brushing your own teeth. If your dog is resistant to having its teeth cleaned, try some doggie toothpaste in flavors that your dog will love. These dog-friendly toothpastes can transform a chore into a treat.
  • Use a plaque prevention product (your vet can recommend some), which you can apply to your pet’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 pet's overall health. Be sure to book your pet's 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.

Is it time for your pup's annual dental cleaning? Contact Aurora Veterinary Hospital to book an appointment to get your dog's mouth as clean as it should be!

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