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To Lick Or Not To Lick – Should I Let My Dog Lick Me?

You have just come home after a long day and commute from work.  As soon as you open your front door, there is Sparky wagging his tail and jumping up to greet you.  So, naturally, you put your stuff down and greet your dog.

As you are greeting him, he licks your face to show he is happy you are home and loves you dearly.  Sparky does this all the time and you love it. But you should be asking yourself should I let my dog lick my face?  

A dog with its big tongue sticking out is shown in this photo.
A dog with its big tongue sticking out.

You should not let a dog lick your face. Dogs saliva can carry bacteria and parasites, that can make a human extremely sick.

You think to yourself and remember reading that dogs have a cleaner mouth than humans, so it should be okay.  Think about it folks, you have seen first-hand what your dog eats. Some examples are garbage, bird poop, other dog poop, their own poop, vomit, cat litter, and the list goes on. 

I had the joy of finding out that dogs like sewage as well. Yes, yes, they do. You should never let your dog lick your face because of all the things they get into.

It Could Happen To You!

We had a plumbing issue in the basement this year, and while the floor drain was open so work could be done my cute little Kiki the Yorkie decided she would lap up some sewage while she had the chance.  Nasty! Would you let your dog lick you with that tongue now?

Christine V

Now that you know dogs eat some pretty gross things, let’s get into the real down and dirty. 

Can I get sick if My Dog Licks Me?

Picture of bacteria from dog saliva.
Microscopic Pathogens And Bacteria Can Be Deadly

Yes, you can get sick from your dog licking you especially if it is your face.  Dog’s mouths can carry parasites and bacteria which is fine for a dog since their bodies are able to handle it, but it can make a human very sick.  Some of the parasites and bacteria are zoonotic which means that they can be transmitted to humans and may cause disease.

Salmonella, E. coli, Capnocytophaga, and Clostridium are bacteria that can be transmitted to humans.  These are found in the dog’s intestines.

Dogs also lick their bottoms so these bacteria can get into your dog’s mouth and be transmitted to you through a lick.  The disease-carrying saliva can be transmitted to a human more readily through membranes like a person’s eyes, nose, and mouth.

Best to not let your dog lick you in those places. It is rare that a person will catch the bacteria, but when a person does, it can be fatal.

What Happens When Bacteria From A Dog Is Transmitted To A Human?

A pile of question marks are shown in this file photo.
Can Dog Saliva Transmit Nasty Bacteria?

Well, here are two stories about two different people who contracted the same infection from a dog lick. This is what happened to them and its not pretty.

Dog Lick Case Study # 1

Wisconsin- A man has lost both of his legs and arms to an infection he contracted from his dog licking him. Greg Manteufel contracted Capnocytophaga canimorsus, a deadly bacterium that can be found in a dog’s saliva. These bacteria caused sepsis and within a few days, Greg was fighting for his life.

In order to save his life, doctors had to amputate both feet but then had to have a second surgery to remove more damage on his legs which led to amputation from the knee down. Both his hands needed to be amputated as well, as the infection in his blood caused his blood pressure to drop and the circulation in his arms declined.

Dog Lick Case Study # 2

Ohio- Marie Trainer and her husband Matthew had just returned home from vacation when she began to feel like she was getting the flu as she was experiencing nausea and backaches. While resting her temperature skyrocketed and then fell, so her husband decided to take her to the nearest hospital. Good thing he did, because she had contracted Capnocytophaga from her dogs licking her.

While there at the hospital, Marie’s condition grew worse and the doctors had to place her in an induced coma where she stayed for 10 days. Doctors removed numerous large blood clots and were able to save Marie.

But unfortunately, her limbs became necrotic, and then gangrene set in and her life was in danger once again. Marie was going to die, and it was going to happen fast. Doctors had no choice but to amputate her four limbs in order to save her life.

This is what can happen if a dog licks you. It doesn’t happen all the time and is pretty rare, but there is a possibility of it happening.

Things To Keep In Mind About Dog Licking

  • Do you know where your dog’s nose has been? Probably not, so avoid getting licked in the face by your dog.
  • Don’t be fooled into thinking that kissing your dog on the nose or top of the head exempts you from contracting bacteria. Dogs are always licking and scratching themselves, their saliva will get into their skin and into their blood and possibly on to you.
  • People with compromised immune systems are more at risk of contracting infections, so are pregnant women, the elderly, babies and teens with acne as the pores on their faces are open.
  • Where there is broken skin- infection is a risk.

Dog Licking Preventative Actions How Can I Limit Myself To Infections?

  • Make sure your dog has regular flea, heartworm and tick control
  • Puppies should be dewormed to avoid infection
  • Make sure your dog is checked for parasites
  • Pick up after your dog when on walks and in the backyard
  • Always clean your hands thoroughly when you have cleaned up after your dog.
  • Lastly, not all dogs want to be petted, hugged or kissed. Proceed with caution when meeting a new dog and do not stick your face in his/her face.


There you have it. To lick or not to lick?? That is the question. It is totally up to you. The bacteria diseases are rare but can happen. But do you really want a dog licking your face knowing where their nose and mouth could have been? I sure don’t and do not let my dog lick me at all, even though we have a great bond.

I hope this article was helpful to you all! Have a fantastic day!


  • MNN Mother Nature Network-
  • CBC News –
  • Wikipedia

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