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Dog Kisses May Give More Than Love

dog"Eeewh! Dog germs!" says "Peanuts" cartoon character Lucy, after receiving a wet kiss from Snoopy.

Most pet owners enjoy those slobbery licks and other signs of love from the family pet. According to a Kansas State University microbiologist, however, the result can be the passing of germs from pet to owner.

"The difficulty arises if there is a break in the skin, or if an individual already has a small cut or a lesion on the hand," says George Marchin, associate professor of microbiology at Kansas State University. "In those cases there might be a transfer of bacteria from the animal to the person.

"In the situation of a dog bite you always hear that superficial bites are less severe than deep ones. The same would apply to the superficial lick and kisses from animals," he said. "You just have to be wary of the introduction of organisms deeper into the tissue."

Most often dog owners aren’t concerned about diseases if their pet has had regular vaccinations. However, there are other germs to be aware of. A dog’s mouth can contain streptococcus or staphylococcus bacteria – either of which can create a problem if there is an open wound.

"One particular organism that you don’t normally find in people’s mouths, and is associated with dog bites, is an organism called pasterella multocida," he said. "It is a more serious organism in terms of infections."

With a normal, healthy animal, the risks of becoming ill are fairly minimal. However, Marchin says it a good idea to be aware of the diseases that are out there, and know how to handle a situation where infection could occur.

The best precaution is to wash your hands with soap and water after dealing with any animals. Then you can enjoy all the sloppy kisses your puppy has to offer.