A 63-year-old man has died after his dog licked him, Yahoo Lifestyle reports. Unfortunately for the man, his immune system was unable to handle a common pathogen found in the saliva of almost all domestic dogs and cats.
The man, whose name has not yet been revealed, turned up in the emergency room with flu-like symptoms, including labored breathing. Over the next day or so, his symptoms worsened and he went into cardiac arrest. Doctors were able to revive him, but he later went into septic shock and died of multiple organ failure.
As it turns out, the culprit in his death was Capnocytophaga canimorsus, a common bacterium that thrives in the saliva of dogs and cats. According to the European Journal of Case Reports in Internal Medicine, he had touched his dog and had been licked by the animal in the weeks leading up to his hospitalization, which was when the pathogen was introduced to his body.
Should Dogs And Cats Be Banned From Licking Humans?
Pet owners and animal lovers shouldn’t have anything to fear. Infection from C canimorsus is extremely rare in humans. Hundreds of millions of people keep cats and dogs as pets and work animals and are licked by them every day, yet they don’t die of infection. Normally, the body’s own natural defense mechanism against infections keeps the bacterium in check. Even people who are bitten by dogs, with the bite breaking the skin, rarely come down with a C canimorsus infection.
“Capnocytophaga canimorsus is actually a rare cause of infections,” says Dr. Julie Mangino, an infectious disease physician at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, per Yahoo Lifestyle.
What’s more, in those rare cases where the pathogen breaks through the body’s natural defenses, the resulting infection isn’t necessarily going to be fatal. Only 25% of all C canimorsus infections end up resulting in death.
However, people who excessively use alcohol, who have had a spleen removed, or who have compromised immune systems are at increased risk of contracting the bacterium.
What Should Pet Owners Know About This Disease?
Pet owners that come down with flu-like symptoms should absolutely see a physician to rule out infection from C canimorsus or another animal saliva-borne infection. Those who are bitten by a dog or a cat should wash the wound immediately with soap and water and call a doctor right away, even if there is no immediate illness felt.