Kiss of Death: Dog Lick Nearly Kills Owner

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Italian Greyhound
Italian Greyhound

We have all heard the theory that a dog’s mouth is cleaner than ours but a recent medical report is looking to debunk this belief.

A report called “The Lick of Death” published last week in the online medical journal BMJ Case Reports documents how a woman nearly died because of a lick from her dog.

The patient in this case, an elderly British woman, was rushed to the hospital after a relative reported to officials that the 70-year-old started slurring her speech while speaking on the phone and later was unresponsive. Upon arriving to woman’s home, paramedics discovered her semi-unconscious and slumped over in a chair.

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Once she arrived in the hospital, her condition started to improve but then took a turn for the worse on day four. She became confused, had a headache, diarrhea and fever and her kidneys started to shut down.

Blood tests revealed she had sepsis – her body was responding to an infection but simultaneously injuring her organs and tissues. More tests revealed the cause of sepsis: Capnocytophaga canimorsus, a bacteria often found in the mouths of dogs and cats.

The patient had no scratch marks or bites on her skin, which would have transferred the bacteria to her body. But what she did have was an affectionate Italian greyhound that gave her kisses – and gave her the unusual lick of death.

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“[I]t’s usually in people who are immuno-compromised and usually follows a dog bite. But this is unusual because it was a lick,” Bruce Farber, chief of infectious diseases at North Shore University Hospital and Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park, N.Y., told CBS News. “I’ve probably seen two cases in 30 years of doing infectious disease.”

And there lies the glimpse of light for dog owners: kisses and licks rarely give humans Capnocytophaga canimorsus.

There have been only 13 cases of Capnocytophaga canimorsus in the U.K. since 1990, a press release states. Of those 26 percent of the people did die and 60 percent were from a dog bite.

Fortunately for the women, she was able to recover after spending a month in the hospital.

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Main image via Flickr/Jean