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

You may have heard the saying that a dog's mouth is actually cleaner than a human's, but is this fact or fiction? Our team of Dallas vets discusses dental care for dogs, how to clean your dog's mouth and teeth, and if their mouth is cleaner than yours.

Is your dog's mouth cleaner than yours?

There's an old tale that says that a dog's mouth is cleaner than a human's. Unfortunately, that's all it is – a myth. While there are some similarities in the types of bacteria found in both species, dogs' mouths have a greater variety of dental bacteria that you won't see in humans' mouths. Did you know that dogs' mouths contain about 600 different species of germs, while humans have around 615 or more. 

So, when it comes to explaining the differences in bacteria in the mouth, a dog's mouth is entirely different. However, there are a a few minor similarities in bacteria. One example is the bacterial family called Prophyromonas, which can cause periodontal disease in both dogs and humans. When billions of germs collect on the surface of the teeth, this can lead to issues like gum recession, bad breath, damage to the bone around the tooth roots, and tooth root abscesses. 

If your dog is showing signs of early periodontal disease, this can be remedied with both at-home oral hygiene and care, as well as professional veterinary dog dental care. 

What are some infections that can be transmitted through your dog's saliva?

While you likely have a low risk of contracting an infection through your dog's saliva, the risk is never zero. Dogs can spread viral and bacterial diseases through their saliva. You can contract these illnesses if a dog bites you, or if their saliva enters your mouth, nose, or eyes. 

Bacterial Infections 

The bacteria in your dog's saliva can be transmitted through bites. These bacteria have the potential to cause serious infections. One of the bacteria is called Capnocytophaga canimorsus, and it can be transmitted through the bite wound. Pasteurella canis is another common bacteria found in a dog's mouth. This is often present in people who have been bitten by a dog. The severity of the dog's bite depends on the location of the wound and whether the person's immune system is vulnerable or compromised in some way. 

If you get bitten by a dog, clean the wound thoroughly with soap and water for 15 minutes before seeking medical help. If your dog eats food contaminated with E. coli or Salmonella, these harmful bacteria can be transmitted to you if your dog's saliva comes into contact with your mouth. A dog that's on a raw food diet may be more likely to carry these types of bacteria. 


Rabies is one of the most dangerous infections a dog can transmit through their saliva. This infection also spreads through a bite from an infected animal. Once the virus is inside the body, it affects the nervous system and leads to various symptoms. Initially, dogs may display signs of nervousness or anxiety. As the disease progresses, dogs become aggressive, feel disoriented, and lose coordination. 

If you see any pet, person, or animal displaying the signs of rabies, contact the local authorities or animal control right away. Be sure to keep a safe distance. Unfortunately, when a dog, person, or while animal exhibits signs of rabies, the disease is almost always fatal. 

Is it safe for my dog to lick me?

Saliva can not easily penetrate the skin making a lick fairly harmless. However, if you are allergic to dog saliva, your skin may develop hives, a rash, and/or become extremely itchy.

How to Clean a Dog's Mouth

Proper dental care for dogs is crucial for maintaining a clean and healthy mouth. Learning how to clean your dog's mouth, including their teeth. is an important part of this care. A simple and effective method is to schedule regular dental appointments for your dog. We suggest doing this at least once a year, or more frequently if your dog is experiencing dental problems like periodontitis.

At New Hope Animal Hospital, our veterinarians will conduct a thorough oral examination when you bring your dog for a dental checkup. Some of the signs of dental conditions that your vet will look for include:

  • 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 your dog experiences an untreated oral health condition, it can lead to pain, discomfort or even serious complications. If you observe signs of periodontal disease in your pet, such as reduced appetite (indicating tooth pain), unusual chewing, excessive drooling, difficulty holding food in the mouth, unpleasant breath, or other symptoms, it is crucial to contact your veterinarian promptly. They will assist you in scheduling a dental appointment for your pet.

Our comprehensive dental care involves thoroughly cleaning and polishing your dog's teeth, addressing the areas above and below the gum line. We also conduct tooth probing and x-rays, followed by a fluoride treatment and the application of a dental sealant to prevent future decay and damage. In cases of advanced periodontal disease, we will work together with you to develop a treatment plan aimed at restoring your pet's mouth to a pain-free and healthy condition.

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 and clean his teeth:
  • Brush your pet's teeth daily with a finger brush from your vet or a child's toothbrush 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. 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 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 your dog due for a dental exam and cleaning? Contact our Dallas vets to have your dog examined right away.

New Patients Welcome, New Hope Animal Hospital, Dallas

New Patients Welcome

New Hope Animal Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Dallas companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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