Q: I grew up with dogs, but my husband wasn’t so fortunate. We now have a dog – and a toddler who loves to hug him and bury her face in his fur. My husband worries that this is unsanitary, while I say it’s fine because our dog is healthy, takes monthly anti-parasite medication and sees his veterinarian regularly. Can you help?
A: Researchers recently learned something that should help him feel comfortable with your daughter’s affection for her dog.
They identified bacteria on the neck fur of 30 dogs of various breeds and compared them with bacteria on the beards of men ranging in age from 18 to 76. They found bacteria that cause human infection on only 13 percent of dogs’ fur compared with 39 percent of men’s beards. Total bacterial counts were significantly lower on dogs’ fur than men’s beards.
Bacterial sampling of the participants’ mouths also showed significantly lower bacterial counts in dogs’ mouths than in the men’s mouths.
If your husband has facial hair, his beard likely carries more bacteria than your dog’s fur. Even if he has no beard, he should feel reassured letting your daughter hug her healthy, well cared for dog.
Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine. Contact her at email@example.com.