Many of us have heard tales of how our dog's mouths are cleaner than our own, but is this actually true? Our team of veterinarians at Doraville share some facts about how clean your dog's mouth is and how you can help to keep their teeth clean and healthy with routine dental care.

Is a Dog's Mouth Cleaner Than a Human's?

While we talk about our mouths and a dog's mouth in a comparing way, they are completely different. While there are some similarities in the types of bacteria found in both species, dogs have a greater variety of dental bacteria that you won't find in humans. Dogs' mouths contain approximately 600 different species of germs, while humans have around 615 and counting.

In summary, the answer is no, dog and human mouths are not entirely comparable in terms of their bacterial composition.

However, there are some similarities. One example is the bacterial family called Porphyromonas, which can cause periodontal disease in both dogs and humans. Billions of germs gradually accumulate on the teeth's surface, leading to issues like bad breath, gum recession, tooth root abscesses, and bone damage around the tooth roots.

Fortunately, the early stages of periodontal disease can be treated in both dogs and humans through at-home dental care. Additionally, dogs, like humans, require regular professional cleanings.

Can You Get Infections and Diseases From Dog Saliva?

While it's rare for the bacteria in a dog's mouth to infect a human, it is possible. The bacteria can cause various infections and diseases. These illnesses can be transmitted if a dog bites you or if their saliva enters your nose, mouth, or eyes.

Bacterial Infections

A dog bite can spread harmful bacteria to humans, causing a serious infection. One of the bacteria, called Capnocytophaga canimorsus, can be transmitted through the bite wound. Another common bacteria found in a dog's mouth is Pasteurella canis, which is often present in people who have been bitten by a dog. The severity of the dog bite depends on where the wound is located and whether the person's immune system is compromised or vulnerable in some way.

If you get bitten by a dog, make sure to clean the wound thoroughly with soap and water for 15 minutes before seeking medical help. If your dog eats food that is contaminated with Salmonella or E. coli, these harmful bacteria can be transmitted to you if your dog's saliva comes into contact with your mouth. While any food can carry this bacteria, it's most common in a raw food diet.


Dogs can spread the most dangerous infection through their saliva, which is called rabies. This virus is transmitted when a dog bites someone. Once inside the body, the virus affects the nervous system and leads to various symptoms. Initially, dogs may show signs of anxiety and nervousness. As the disease progresses, dogs become aggressive, lose coordination, and feel disoriented.

If you come across a dog or wild animal displaying these symptoms, it's important to contact your local animal control or police department immediately. Make sure to keep a safe distance. Unfortunately, when a dog, person, or wild animal shows signs of rabies, it is almost always fatal.

Is it bad if your dog licks you?

Because your skin absorbs saliva poorly, there is little risk of infection if a dog licks your skin (as long as they are not licking a wound). If you are allergic to dog saliva, your skin may develop hives, a rash, and/or become extremely itchy.

How to Clean a Dog's Mouth

Proper dental care for dogs is crucial for maintaining a clean and healthy mouth. Learning how to clean your dog's teeth is an important part of this care. A simple and effective method is to schedule regular dental appointments for your dog. We suggest doing this at least once a year, or more frequently if your dog is experiencing dental problems like periodontitis.

At WellPet Humane, when you bring your dog for a dental checkup, our veterinarians will conduct a thorough oral examination. They will carefully look for any signs of dental issues, including:

  • Extra teeth or retained baby teeth
  • Bleeding around the mouth
  • Swelling or pain in or around the mouth
  • Plaque or tartar buildup on teeth
  • Discolored teeth
  • Loose or broken teeth
  • Bad breath

Untreated oral health issues can worsen and cause significant pain and discomfort for your pet. If you observe signs of periodontal disease in your pet, such as reduced appetite (indicating tooth pain), unusual chewing, excessive drooling, difficulty holding food in the mouth, unpleasant breath, or other symptoms, it is crucial to contact your veterinarian promptly. They will assist you in scheduling a dental appointment for your pet.

Our comprehensive dental care involves thoroughly cleaning and polishing your dog's teeth, addressing the areas above and below the gum line. We also conduct tooth probing and x-rays, followed by a fluoride treatment and the application of a dental sealant to prevent future decay and damage. In cases of advanced periodontal disease, we will work together with you to develop a treatment plan aimed at restoring your pet's mouth to a pain-free and healthy condition.

Should I Brush My Dog's Teeth?

A crucial part of your dog's ongoing care is dental care. Here are some of the ways that you can help keep your dog's teeth clean:
  • Brush your pet's teeth daily with a finger brush from your vet or a child's toothbrush to remove any plaque or debris. It's as straightforward as brushing your own teeth. If your dog is resistant to having its teeth cleaned, try some doggie toothpaste in flavors that your dog will love. This dog-friendly toothpaste can transform a chore into a treat.
  • Use a plaque prevention product (your vet can recommend some), which you can apply to your pet's teeth and gums. These products act as a barrier to prevent plaque buildup.
  • Offer your pup treats such as dental chews or food designed to help prevent plaque buildup and tartar.

Dental care is crucial for keeping your dog's teeth strong, clean, and healthy which can help to prevent bacteria from building up and infections from occurring. Be sure to book your pet's annual dental appointment today, your dog will thank you. 

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Is your dog due for routine teeth cleaning? Reach out to WellPet Humane to schedule a dental care visit to ensure your dog's mouth stays fresh and healthy!