12 Investigates: Can you love your pets too much?

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - We love our pets in Richmond, but is there a such thing as loving your puppy too much? A new study suggests canine mouths are full of bacteria and it can spread to you.

We caught up with several Richmonders at a downtown dog park. Many told us dogs are like family. Though, most people admit to allowing the occasional lick, others think it's kinda gross.

"Oh yeah, definitely. There are definitely times that that happens. Almost daily," said Mark Gan.

"All the time," added Alicia Patterson.

Others were a little more cautious. "I try not to. I'll kiss his head, but not his lips,"said Alex Kelly.

"I don't kiss her like that actress open-mouth licking kiss. No! But yes, she gets kisses. She's not allowed to lick," stated Madeline McClure.

Ann Vance added, "I don't let my dogs lick me in the face. I hug them mostly."

According to a new study released in the Archives of Oral Biology, dog owners and their pets may be swapping more germs than you think.

Researchers worked with dogs in Okayama, Japan. They scrapped the plaque right off the teeth of 66 dogs and their owners. In those samples they found bacteria that can cause gum disease and tooth decay in both humans and dogs. They even located bacteria inside the mouths of 13 dog owners that is rarely found in humans.

The study suggests bacteria can be transmitted from dogs to humans.

"I would certainly consider mouth-to-mouth contact to be an unsafe practice," said Dr. Paul Howard. He's works for the Veterinary Emergency and Specialty Center in Carytown and he wasn't surprised by the results of the study. "I tell people to avoid it for a multitude of reasons. I mean, it's just not a good safe practice."

Howard says facial licking may actually be ingrained in a dog's DNA. "If you look at a dog pack and how they react to one another there's a lot of facial licking. So, it doesn't surprise me that they would as being viewed as part of the pact that they would want to do that to you too."

He says there are plenty of other ways to let your pup know you love him. "I think there are plenty of positive ways to show positive emotions to a dog or a cat or any pet for that matter while at the same time avoiding mouth-to-mouth contact."

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