Bacteria from your dog's mouth can put you at risk for a deadly infection.
It's a widely held belief that a dog's mouth is cleaner than a human's. However, the recent case of an English woman who contracted a potentially deadly infection from her dog may prove otherwise. And scarily so.
The BMJ reports that the seventy-year-old woman was admitted to the hospital when she came down with a severe fever that turned into a rapid shutdown of her vital organs. Doctors were at a loss to explain the patient's extreme condition. Emergency diagnostics uncovered the bacteria Capnocytophaga canimorsus, commonly found in the mouths of canines and some felines.
Doctors traced the origin of the bacteria back to the woman's pet greyhound and believe the woman contracted the infection from the dog's saliva. Medically speaking, this is notable, as a dog lick is an extremely rare form of transmission. Most cases of Capnocytophaga canimorsus infection are caused by dog bites, typically when the dog's saliva enters the blood stream from the break in the skin. In a world where it feels like every day heralds the arrival of some new thing that wants to kill us, it's downright cruel that our freshest source of danger comes to us from our first source of comfort--our own pets!
Fortunately, Capnocytophaga canimorsus presents little danger to healthy children, teens, and adults. But those with compromised immune systems should still play it safe. Doctors caution that newborns in their first three months of infancy should avoid contact with family pets. Senior dog owners should check in with their medical adviser if they come down with a fever that quickly worsens. It also goes without saying that it's never a good idea to approach a dog you don't know, especially if there is no owner in sight.
On the rare chance you contract Capnocytophaga canimorsus, seek medical attention immediately. Antibiotics are effective in clearing up infections, and the sooner you get treated, the better. That said, most doctors will agree that an occasional kiss from your dog should pose no harm.
...Just try not to overdo it. Thank you to CBS News and West Gate Pet Clinic