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I Love to Give My Good Boy Kisses, But Can I Give Him Herpes?

I love to give him little kisses on his fuzzy head, but I’m worried I’m a biohazard

There’s nothing more healing than giving your dog a nice, big smooch after another day on Planet Hell. But what if you have a persistent cold sore? Is it still safe to give your pup a peck, or can dogs get herpes

They can, but not from you.

“People can’t give their herpes infections to dogs,” confirms Jerry Klein, chief veterinary officer of the American Kennel Club. “Dogs can get the herpes virus, but it’s a different herpes than the virus associated with people.” Don’t worry — you can’t catch herpes from them, either.

That said, dog herpes is extremely common and equally serious. It’s spread through touch, similar to people herpes, so it multiplies easily, especially in kennels and puppy mills (the best way to prevent it is to keep puppies isolated after birth in a clean, sterile environment). Even worse, Klein says herpes has a “high mortality rate in newborn puppies, usually less than two weeks of age,” because their immune systems aren’t strong enough to stop the virus from developing into lung infections and pneumonia. (Be right back — just having a long cry.)

Adult dogs, on the other hand, are much more likely to pull through and may not even show symptoms all that often. There’s still no cure for dog herpes, though, so if a dog catches it, they’ll have it for life. According to Klein, it manifests as “a persistent, latent infection of the reproductive tract, which shows itself and sheds during periods of stress.” That shedding can then spread the virus to other nearby dogs

The good news is that the effects of herpes in grown pooches — eye discharge, eye inflammation, coughing, sneezing, nasal discharge, genital sores and that nasty infection Klein mentioned — can be at least kinda mitigated by topical antibiotics, eye drops and pain relievers.

Welp, now that you’re totally depressed, go ahead and give your dog that kiss. You’re gonna need it.