I think we’ve probably all cringed as we’ve watched a friend or someone we know share their food or a drink with their dog out of the same bowl or glass their using and then exclaim, “Don’t worry! My dog’s mouth is cleaner than mine!” Maybe not. Truthfully, comparing the dog mouth and human mouth is like comparing apples and oranges. There are similarities, but also key differences. Obviously, the bond between a person and their dog is extremely personal so no judgement on sharing your water with Fido! You do you!
The short answer is no, a dog’s mouth is not cleaner than a human’s mouth.
Bacteria in Dog and Human Mouths
Both human’s and dog’s mouths are full of microbes and bacteria. However, while there are some of the same bacteria, there are also different kinds of bacteria in each species’ mouths. Porphyromonas is actually the bacterial family that causes periodontal disease in dogs and humans. The difference is that in humans, the actual bacteria is P. gingivitis and in dogs is P. gulae. Research shows that we actually have about the same number of different bacteria in our mouths as dogs, around 600.
Since most bacteria that are carried in a dog’s mouth are not zoonotic, you likely won’t catch any diseases from your little pup. However, you might want to avoid kisses if you know he regularly indulges in eating fecal matter or other less than appetizing items. So, yes, your dog’s mouth is full of bacteria and depending on their habits, they’re safe to share with.
Clean Your Dog’s Teeth
Keeping your dog’s microbiome that is their mouth healthy is simply a matter of oral care. The best thing that you can do is brush your dog’s teeth regularly. Make sure to use dog specific toothpaste because human toothpaste has xylitol and that’s a toxic substance for pups. They have tasty flavors like peanut butter and chicken so that your dog is more willing to sit still for the brushing. You can use a soft bristled baby toothbrush or one that slips over your finger like a little glove. Your dog might fight you the first few times but if you stay consistent, they’ll get used to it and be more willing to sit still.
Dental Toys and Treats
There are a few toys or treats that can help keep plaque and tartar from developing along with regular teeth brushing. Toys like a Kong are good to hide toothpaste or special teeth-cleaning treats in. Treats like Greenies Canine Dental Chews are great for maintaining your dog’s oral health. You could also provide a rawhide bone, but be very cautious with these as dog’s can harm themselves with rawhide. As soon as it gets soft, take it away from your dog. There are other chew toys with ridges or bristles that remove plaque and tartar as your dog chews. This is a win win for oral care and keeping your dog occupied and out of trouble. A word of caution, though. Toys alone will not keep your dog’s teeth as clean as they need to be. These need to be combined with brushing.
Water additives are becoming a popular solution because they’re so easy to use. They fight bad breath and are, as the name suggests, added to water. Some dog’s teeth are extra prone to decay. If this is the case for your dog, you may want to talk to your vet about dental sealants. Just like in people, these can help protect your dog’s teeth and, in turn, their total oral hygiene.
A Dog’s Mouth is not Cleaner Than a Human’s Mouth
While your dog’s mouth isn’t necessarily cleaner than yours or the most clean thing on the planet, it is relatively clean and you can’t catch diseases from them. So, that statement probably needs to stop being said but it’s totally personal preference on what you share with your dog.