US: Dog licks aren't dirty say scientists

Dog owners who sleep with their dogs and allow their pooch to lick their face are no more likely to share strains of E. coli bacteria with their pets than other dog owners who shy from such contact, according to new research from Kansas State University.

Dr Kate Stenske, a clinical assistant professor at the Kansas college of veterinary medicine, studied the association between the possible transfer of sometimes deadly E. coli bacteria because dogs and humans have it in their gastrointestinal tracts.

"I became interested in the topic because there is such a strong bond between dogs and their owners," Stenske said. "If you look at one study, 84% of people say their dog is like a child to them."

The research showed that bonding behaviours such as sharing the bed or allowing licks on the face had no association with an increase in shared E. coli. But the research did show a link between an increase in antibiotic resistant E. coli on owners and their pets where owners did not wash their hands after petting their dogs or before cooking meals.

"We should use common sense and practice good general hygiene," said the professor.