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There’s a controversy in veterinary medicine that divides the profession, and it’s over something that many pet owners never give a second thought: kissing your pets. As you might imagine, I have some thoughts on this topic. Because, yes, I kiss my pets, and yes, I know I probably shouldn’t.
Not long ago, Dr. Christina Winn came out in favor of pet kissing in a Veterinary Economics cover piece. Dr. Winn was looking at ways to develop better communications with pet owners so pets will be more likely to get the care they need. The antikissing contingent blew her a raspberry soon after, with a letter signed by a handful of veterinarians, including my good friend Dr. Tony Johnson, a clinical assistant professor of critical care at the Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine. Their point: It is indeed possible to catch something from such close contact with a pet.
I’ve taken this issue on, in very public ways, and I have to admit that I can see both sides. I still remember doing a segment on Good Morning America about zoonotic diseases, or those that are transmissible from animals to humans. Looking right into the camera and pointing to my mouth for emphasis, I said, “It’s really not a good idea to let your pets kiss or lick you on the mouth.”
Upward of 4 million people heard my recommendation, and probably 3.9 million pet owners, including me, ignored my good advice. In fact, the evening after that show, I pulled into the garage at our Almost Heaven Ranch and opened the door of the pickup to Quixote, our 16-pound canine cocktail.
“Ah, you want to give daddy some sugars?” I said. And he did.
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