Fezeg Amazon Review

Best Fezeg Amazon Review

Is it Safe to Let Your Dog Lick Your Fingers or Face?

Let’s face it: most of us who have the pleasure of sharing our homes with an animal, will likely have been licked by them at some point. If you have a dog that gets very happy and excited to see you, then you’ve probably been licked a lot. Dogs especially love to lick our faces (not to mention our fingers if we’ve eaten something tasty recently). And some people will even encourage this behaviour in their pets as a form of bonding. But is this safe for our and their health to do so? Well, the answer is that it depends on how healthy each of you are and what hygiene measures you take.

Why Does My Dog Lick Me?

One of the first things to realise is that face licking is a normal dog behaviour. Dogs lick the faces of other dogs as a means of social connection and attention, both as a form of bonding, and as a form of appeasement to reduce social tensions. Puppies lick the mouths of their mothers as a signal for food. And dogs of all ages utilise facial licking as a part of social grooming.

In a human environment, many of these same reasons will apply for why our dogs lick us. Sometimes, dogs also lick us because they like the smell of something on our skin. This might be something tasty like the remnants of our last meal on our fingers or lips. Or because they are intrigued by the smell or taste of a product that we have used on our skin.

Whether you want your pet to lick your face or not, how you respond to this tongue lathering may encourage more licking in the future. Dogs respond to positive and negative cues in response to a behaviour. So, if you follow up a lick to the face with play, attention, or a treat, then your dog will associate the licking with a reward and is more likely to repeat the behaviour in the future.

What Risks Do I Pose to My Dog?

As much as there are many positive and mutual benefits from a close bond with your furry companion, the use of topical products on our own skin may pose a risk to your pet. Topical creams used in human medical treatments can have a cumulative effect on our pets if they are exposed to or ingest these products. Zinc oxide found in some sunscreen and rash products, oestrogen cream used by women, and steroid creams used to treat human skin conditions could be ingested by your pet over multiple licking sessions. Repeated ingestion of these products could have negative impacts on your pet’s health.

Over the course of the day, our skin also becomes contaminated with the dust, pollens, and pollutants of the environment that we have been exposed to. Although pets may equally be exposed to these from a shared environment, touching and licking our faces may increase this exposure. If your dog has allergies, pollens or food remnants on your skin could trigger symptoms.

What Risks Does My Dog Pose to Me?

If you are a healthy adult, there may be minimal risk involved with your pet licking you. However, if a person has an open wound, small cut, or had recent surgery, exposure to dog saliva could introduce their oral bacteria into the deeper tissue layers and the blood vessels, allowing both local and distant infections to occur.

Several bacteria present in dog’s mouths have been linked to cross infection in humans, including infections of surgical sites and blood poisoning, known as septicaemia. With over 80% of dogs over the age of 3 having some form of dental disease, their levels of oral bacteria may be surprisingly high. On top of this, dogs love to shove their mouths in places we’d rather they didn’t so other risks include transfer of anal and environmental contaminants.

Those with compromised or immature immune systems are at highest risk of complications arising from exposure to dog saliva. This includes infants and young children, pregnant women, the elderly, and those receiving immunosuppressive medications such as chemotherapy. Unlike the immune system of a healthy adult, this group may fail to respond adequately to exposure of disease-causing bacteria, parasites, or viruses (collectively called pathogens) and could therefore become sick or develop an infection.

Aside from open wounds, the nose and mouth are the main exposure routes for transmission of pathogens; so these areas should especially be avoided even if you choose to let your pet lick the rest of your face. In infants and small children where the head is smaller, it may be easier for a dog to lick these spots, as well as the eye area which is another common transmission route.

Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR)

Currently there is a concerning global rise in bacteria and other pathogens, such as parasites, which can evade antimicrobials, including antibiotics. Hospital stays and prolonged or repetitive use of antibiotics increase the potential for resistant bacteria to develop in both us and our pets.

Both humans and animals are harbouring AMR pathogens in increasing numbers. This has led to concerns of potential transmission between owners and their pets, although the true risk is unknown. Licking is only one way that AMR bacteria could transfer, but if a family member or animal in the household has been diagnosed with an AMR-type infection, it would be prudent to add prevention of skin licking to your other hygiene measures. 

What Can I Do to Limit the Risks?

Whether you choose to let your pet lick you or not, general hygiene measures such as washing skin after any kind of physical contact with your pet, and especially before handling food, should reduce the risk of contamination or cross infection. Protecting sores and broken skin with a plaster or bandage will provide a barrier against infection.

Preventing your dog licking any skin that has a product on it should reduce exposure risks to your dog. Meanwhile, you can keep your dog’s oral health in check with daily dental brushing and regular health checks with your veterinary team.

Incomplete or inappropriate courses of antibiotics can contribute to development of AMR, so it is important to follow the instructions and complete all antibiotic courses whenever your vet prescribes them for your pet. This includes not making use of leftover ear or skin medications at a later date, without first seeking the correct diagnosis and treatment advice from your vet.


Cuddling with and being licked by our pets can give us so much joy as a pet owner. For the majority of dog owners, letting their dogs lick their face or hands may come with little consequence. However, there are reasons to be cautious and to discourage the behaviour. Promoting good hygiene at home, including teaching it to children, can also help keep your whole family safe.

Further Reading

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *