When dogs are in the presence of a tiny human (i.e. your baby), it is natural for them to be friendly towards your little bundle of joy. This includes running after, playing, and yes, even licking your precious baby. But the question remains, is it safe for dogs to lick your baby’s head, face, eye, or hands?
It might make for a cute photo-op, and probably seems harmless but you should never let even a trusted family dog lick your baby. A dog’s tongue can be a breeding ground of bacteria and germs that can be transferred to a baby through their saliva. Additionally, there are some organisms that are unique to dogs that humans cannot tolerate or combat.
Read along to find out more information on what you can do when your dog licks your baby or how to prevent this from happening.
What should I do if a dog licked my baby?
As a parent, you can be overly protective and watch your kids in a hawk-like fashion but it only takes a few seconds for a dog to sneak in a few licks before you can stop it.
The first step is to separate the dog from your baby and immediately wash the area where the dog licked with soap and warm water.
If it is a family pet, show your dog that this is not good behavior and include this as part of dog training.
Can a baby get sick from a dog’s lick?
We have all heard that “a dog’s mouth is cleaner than humans” but that is not medically founded or necessarily accurate.
A dog’s mouth can make your baby sick because:
- Even if your dog is healthy and clean, their dental hygiene habits are nowhere near what we do as humans which includes brushing multiple times a day, flossing, and mouth rinsing.
- Dogs use their tongues to clean their body parts including their butt. A dog’s mouth can be a breeding ground for germs, bacteria, and parasites.
- Germs from dogs can cause a variety of diseases from minor skin infections to major illnesses.
- Some bacteria in dogs’ mouths are zoonotic which means that animals can pass them to humans and cause diseases. This is considered a rare event, but it is always better to be on the side of caution and be aware of signs and symptoms to look for when this happens.
The good news is some of the diseases that affect household pets cannot be transferred to humans. Examples of such diseases include distemper, provirus, and heartworms. But that does not discount the fact that there are some diseases that can be transferred by being in contact with the animal’s waste, saliva, or dander.
In parenting, we’ve all heard that exposing kids to germs will help in boosting their immune system and make them more resistant to germs. This claim is unfounded, plus why would we subject our kids to more germs if we can prevent them from getting sick.
Germs passing from dogs to humans can cause mouth infections.
It’s important to keep in mind that, no matter how much your love your dog, they use their tongues to lick themselves and as gross as it sounds, they can use their tongue as their toilet paper.
Depending on your dog’s diet, they can contract E. coli or Salmonella which can be passed on to humans by their saliva. In order to prevent this, make sure that any food that is being fed to your dog is thoroughly cooked and stored at appropriate temperatures to avoid spoilage. E. Coli and Salmonella can cause diarrhea which can lead to stomach pain and dehydration.
Another common infection that dogs can potentially carry is called campylobacter infection which can cause fever, diarrhea, and abdominal pain in people.
If you are concerned that your baby is showing symptoms resulting from exposure to the above-mentioned bacterial infections, please consult your doctor.
Babies have weaker and less developed immune systems which make them more susceptible to sickness and diseases caused by parasites.
Dogs can unknowingly eat or put their noses down in feces which increases their risk of contracting worms or parasites that can be passed over to humans. The most common example is roundworm which is caused by a parasite called Toxocara. Exposure to this type of parasite can cause vomiting, abdominal pain, and swelling.
Another common type of parasite that can be passed from animals to humans is ringworm, more commonly known as “Athlete’s Foot.” Ringworm is characterized by itchy, scaly, and reddened skin. Ringworm can easily be treated by topical cream or lotion or in extreme cases, you can use antifungal medication. If you notice a circular rash that is red and itchy in your baby, please consult your doctor.
Can licking my baby make my dog possessive?
Dogs are naturally affectionate animals and they can’t help but be playful. Licking is one way that they can show affection to humans or establish dominance over a person.
Dogs can also exhibit possessiveness over their human family members and no matter what size or type of dog you have, it is always a good idea to create boundaries between your pets and children, especially small babies.
Creating boundaries would lessen the dog’s assertiveness over humans. Your pet’s possessiveness can potentially be a double-edged sword. It can protect you from harm from other animals but at the same time, dogs can see other humans including parents and caregivers as threats to the baby and they can display their possessive nature over the baby by being too aggressive.
What to do if a dog licks baby?
If your dog licks your baby (anywhere), you should separate the dog and the baby.
It is important to immediately wash the area with mild hypoallergenic soap and water.
Here are some baby-friendly soap that our family loves:
- Baby Dove Hypoallergenic Wash – it moisturizes and washes away bacteria at the same time
- Aveeno Baby Daily Moisture Gentle Bath Wash & Shampoo – made with natural oat extract
If your baby has an open wound, you should be careful that a dog should not lick this area at all as this might cause infection. If you notice a new rash developing after a dog licks your baby, you should contact your doctor for guidance.
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Dog licked baby’s head
When this happens, gently wipe your baby’s head with a clean washcloth and warm water to get rid of any dog saliva that might have transferred.
If you can, wash the area immediately with your baby’s soap.
Dog licked baby’s face
Grab a clean washcloth, put a little bit of your baby’s soap on it and warm water and gently clean your baby’s face. In doing this, the dog’s saliva will be removed. Do not let your baby touch the spot where the dog licked to prevent germs from spreading.
Dog licked baby’s eye
This area can be a little trickier to clean, try cleaning the eye area with warm water and a washcloth. Be on the lookout for any inflammation, irritation, or redness. If this happens, call your doctor immediately for advice.
Dog licked baby’s hand
Immediately wash your baby’s hand with gentle soap and water. Do this right away especially if your baby is at the age where they bring their hands to their mouths to suck. Be on the lookout for rash or itching in this area.
Dog licked baby’s ear
A dog licks ears as a sign of respect but this is still a big no-no and should not be tolerated. Clean your baby’s ear using a clean washcloth and water, do not insert anything inside your baby’s ear.
Dog licked baby’s foot
I’ve seen numerous viral Youtube videos of dogs licking babies’ feet and I have to admit it’s pretty dang cute!
Unfortunately, you should not tolerate this behavior. If this happens, wash and rinse your baby’s foot with gentle soap and water. Be alert for any rash that may develop after.
Keeping your dog from licking baby
The best thing you can to keep your dog from posing a health or safety concern to your baby is to keep him from licking the little one to start with.
Here are some ways that you can do at home to prevent unwanted dog licks from happening:
- Separate dog from baby – If the dog is repeatedly trying to lick your baby, you can separate them physically. This is one way that you can establish boundaries.
- Reinforce positive behavior with reward – If your dog keeps its distance and does not lick your baby you can reward this positive behavior with treats.
- Distract your dog – When your dog won’t stop licking the baby, you can try some distraction tactics like getting him to play fetch or his toys.
- Never leave your baby with the dog unsupervised – Even the most well-behaved dogs can snap and sometimes it only takes a few seconds for them to get triggered. Make sure that you are watching your dog interact with your baby and you are at a close distance in case you need to intervene.
- Be consistent – This is the most important thing to do because consistency breeds behavior. Training your dog to not lick your baby might be hard in the beginning but dogs are adaptable and sometimes it just takes time.
As a last note, it is also important that your dog is up to date with routine vaccines. You should also control flea and tick problems in your dog because fleas and ticks can also carry diseases that are easily passed to kids. A healthy pet is important in keeping your home healthy and clean.