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Be honest: Do you ever let your dog kiss you on the face? According to a recent article in The New York Times, if you do, you may be putting your health at risk.

Dogs’ mouths, like ours, are warm and moist, making them Petri dishes for bacteria. (Be honest again: How often do you brush your dog’s teeth?) Also, many dogs put dirt, feces, rodents, or small animals in their mouths, which could lead to the presence of parasites. Suffice it to say that the old wives' tale claiming “your dog's mouth is cleaner than yours” is completely false. That’s why one expert, Dr. Leni K. Kaplan, of Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, told the Times that pet owners shouldn’t let their dog kiss a person’s mouth, nose, and eyes, through which certain pathogens, including salmonella and E. coli, can be transmitted.

But if you’re healthy, he adds, a smooch on your skin is unlikely to cause a problem. (Read the full article here.)

Meanwhile, scientists at the University of Arizona are currently studying whether some of the bacteria dogs carry can actually improve human health.

“We think dogs might work as probiotics to enhance the health of the bacteria that live in our guts,” explains researcher Dr. Charles Raison. “These bacteria, or 'microbiota,' are increasingly recognized as playing an essential role in our mental and physical health, especially as we age.”

The results won’t be available for a while, so in the meantime, experts recommend owners regularly test their pets for parasites and keep them from eating or sniffing feces. And if you can't resist those puppy kisses, it's safest to keep them away from the face.

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