Can my dog catch mononucleosis from humans?

April 13, 2012

We are a race of dog lovers. Because dogs are affectionate and loyal animals they are considered as family members. It is quite common to see dogs sharing blankets and pillows with the children. Dogs are hugged and kissed. Dogs are sweet creatures that would show their affection by licking the face of its human family. Because of this habit, many pet owners have wondered if it is possible for humans to transmit the kissing disease to the pet. Dog experts tell us that it is quite unlikely for the dog to catch mononucleosis from humans in spite of the pet’s propensity to lick the face and most especially the lips of its favorite person.

Pet owners are aware that some canine diseases can be transmitted to humans. This is why precautions are made to prevent zoonotic diseases from being transmitted by the pet to its human family. Rabies for instance is a fatal viral disease that can be transmitted by the pet through its saliva. Pet owners ensure that the pet is kept up to date with rabies vaccinations. As internal and external parasites can be transmitted by dogs too, responsible pet owners make sure that worming and anti-external parasite medications are regularly administered.

If it is possible for dogs to transmit diseases to humans, is it also possible for humans to transmit human diseases to dogs? Mononucleosis is a highly infectious viral disease that is caused by the Epstein-Barr virus. This viral infection is more commonly known as the kissing disease because of the way it is transmitted. Mononucleosis is transferred through the saliva… through oral contact. Sharing toothbrushes, eating and drinking utensils and as the common name suggests, through kissing. It may be romantic to drink a soda using only one straw but this is one way of spreading the EBV.

Mononucleosis, also known as mono is very common. The symptoms of this disease are quite general so that people that have been exposed to the Epstien-Barr virus may think that what they have is the common flu. Because the virus attacks the lymph nodes in the throat and neck, an infected person may think that what is being felt is a worse case of sore throat. This virus has a 4 to 7 weeks incubation period. After infection, a person that has the kissing disease will have a fever, a sore throat due to pharyngeal inflammation. Fatigue, weakness, weight loss arising from poor appetite, swollen neck, groin and armpit glands, muscle aches and stiffness are some of the manifestations of the disease. Severe infectious mononucleosis would cause the enlargement of spleen and liver. Surprisingly, there are cases when an infected person would show no symptoms of the disease at all.

The EBV is a member of the herpes family. Infected people would carry the virus for life even if no symptoms of the disease were shown. Studies on EBV conducted in Taiwan by the National Chung Hsing University showed that the virus is wide spread. As mentioned, infected people may or may not show the symptoms. Further, it was noted that dogs may carry the virus without showing symptoms as well. It was also verified is the fact that mono cannot be transmitted by humans to dogs.

Similar to other viral infection, mononucleosis cannot be cured. The kissing disease is self limited. Infected people would usually recover within 6 to 8 weeks. Rest is the best medicine for this disease. As it was proven that the infection cannot be passed to the dog, would it be OK to let your dog lick your face and your lips like when you are asleep? You certainly can but to be on the safe side, you can train the dog to minimize the licking and the kissing. The dog may not be able to catch infectious diseases from you but the dog can certainly transmit some canine diseases to you.

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