Do you let your dog lick your face? If so, you may want to reconsider, says Dr. Neilanjan Nandi, assistant professor of medicine at Drexel University College of Medicine. Citing an “enormous oral microbiome of bacteria, viruses, and yeast,” Dr. Nandi argues that it may not be wise to let your dog lick your face, especially given the possibility of zoonotic illness transmission. Though human skin serves as an effective barrier to pathogens, they are more easily absorbed through the body’s mucosal membranes, which are abundant on our faces.
Need more convincing? Well, in a recent interview with Wired Magazine, President Obama said “I still don’t let Sunny and Bo lick me, because when I walk them on the side lawn, some of the things I see them picking up and chewing on, I don’t want that, man,” referring to his two Portuguese Water dogs. And while there aren’t many known viruses that spread from dogs to humans, there is growing evidence that dogs can harbor and transmit human norovirus, which is often responsible for viral gastroenteritis, which can be found in a 2012 Journal of Clinical Virology paper by Summa et al. There may not be need to panic yet though, as it appears that the most effective route of transmission for norovirus remains human to human contact. So if you are brave enough, your pups can keep licking away.
-Ahmed Mustafa (’18)