Do Dog Licks Cause Pimples?

It happens to everyone: You get up close to your dog, and your canine friend decides to lick your mouth and cheeks. This display of affection may not seem harmful, but there are a number of risks associated with it. Does dog saliva cause acne? The answer is: Yes, among other issues.

The Harm in Face Licking

The majority of animals’ mouths host an enormous amount of yeast, viruses, and bacteria. A dog has proteins in its saliva that help it to heal its wounds and cleanse itself, but that doesn’t mean those proteins are good for humans. Some organisms unique to canines weren’t made for humans to tolerate.

Some dogs’ mouths have zoonotic bacteria, which can be passed from dog to human. They have the potential to cause disease. Common zoonotic bacteria are salmonella, E. coli, and clostridium. All of these can cause humans to experience severe gastrointestinal distress.

Can Dogs Still Lick You?

Dog saliva is not likely to cause problems when it touches non-wounded human skin, especially if the person isn’t allergic to dogs. The skin absorbs very little of the saliva, so very little reaction occurs.

With that said, people’s eyes, mouth, and nose contain mucous membranes that can much more easily absorb pathogens and saliva. It’s rare to have an illness transmitted through this method, but experts still suggest keeping your dog from licking your face.

Precautions to Take Against Disease

Experts recommend the following:

  • You should have any new pets undergo a deworming session.
  • Your pets should be kept away from other animals’ feces.
  • You should ensure your pet remains up-to-date on all possible vaccinations.
  • You should regularly wash your hands with water and soap, especially after touching your dog.

Where Does Acne Come In?

While dog saliva isn’t known for causing dermatological issues on its own, it can exacerbate acne conditions that already exist.

Many people have a genetic predisposition toward breakouts. There are different kinds of acne as well. Some people have whiteheads, blackheads, red bumps, or pustules. It’s estimated that most people in the world will experience some form of acne over the course of their lives.

Acne is the most common skin condition in the world. Four out of every five people between 12 and 25 years of age have some form of acne.

When acne first begins to form, it does so inside an individual’s pores. Pores refer to the opening in the skin that grows a very fine hair. Attached to the pore is a sebaceous gland, which produces sebum. Sebum is a natural skin oil that helps lubricate your skin and hair.

For acne to form, several things must happen within the pore. The first is that the sebaceous glands will produce an excess of oil. As the lining of the pore renews itself during its natural cycle, it sheds its dead cells. These cells create a plug by combining with sebum. This causes the pore to be enlarged and blocked.

When the plug is below the skin’s surface, a whitehead is caused. If the plug reaches your skin’s surface, you’ll see a blackhead. When the pore’s walls break down, you’ll experience a pimple.

Your plugged pores help create a space where bacteria can thrive. Bacteria infecting the pores are what cause swelling, inflammation, and pain. In addition, the combination of oil and bacteria can create cysts, which can also lead to permanent scarring.

Basic Causes of Acne

Dog saliva won’t cause acne if a person wasn’t already predisposed to it. Common causes of acne include:

  • Makeup and cosmetics
  • Pollution, humidity, and other environmental factors
  • Certain medications
  • Genetics
  • Hormonal changes

How does dog saliva factor into this?

Dog saliva has the potential to block your pores. If your face is already inflamed, the saliva may also introduce bacteria where there previously wasn’t any. For this reason, if your dog licks your face, you should do your best to wash your face as soon as possible.

It’s also not a good idea to let your dog lick your face because of the aforementioned potential for diseases. You’ll be better served by letting your dog lick your hands and arms. The skin there is less sensitive, and you’re unlikely to break out.

Allergies to Dog Saliva

You may be allergic to dog saliva, but an allergic reaction will present differently from traditional acne.

Dog saliva contains proteins that are common allergens. In most people, the proteins are nonreactive and harmless. However, in people with dog allergies, dog saliva tends to cause the immune system to overreact to a perceived threat.

If you discover an allergy to dog saliva after your dog licks your face, there’s a good chance you have a mild allergy. More severe allergies would be detected when you breathed in the dog’s dander on a day-to-day basis.

You might experience a red and itchy rash in the areas that the dog licked. This will be different from normal acne-related redness. Acne doesn’t tend to itch, although it can be tender and painful.

You may also experience respiratory symptoms like a blocked nose, sinus pressure, and watery eyes. Reactions like watery eyes tend to be even more prominent if your dog licked your eyelids.

If you do have an allergy to your dog’s saliva, you should probably have your dog stop licking you. You should also take precautions to limit your exposure to allergens. A skin prick test can show you whether you’re allergic to your dog. Different dog breeds have slightly different proteins in their saliva, so you may need to test several breeds.

No matter whether you’re predisposed to acne or not, you should get used to washing your face twice a day and keeping potential pore blockers away from your skin.


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