A man in Germany has died and his dog is being blamed for his passing. It's a unusual medical case involving a normally harmless bacterium, but experts say it's nothing to worry about and that most of us can continue to let our dogs slobber all over us.
Humans have germs in their mouths, and so do dogs.
A 63-year-old man in Germany has died after his pet dog licked him and infected him with a bacterial infection.
A man suffered fatal septic shock after being licked by his dog, in a case which has doctors warning pet owners to be aware of even minor symptoms.
The man first went to the doctor after experiencing three days of fever and difficulty breathing.
Doctors noted he had also developed tiny, circular patches on his face, and skin discolouration, muscle aches and pain in both legs. He made a decision to seek medical attention three days after symptoms first emerged.
Once doctors detected the bacteria they boosted the antibiotic regimen the man had already been on for four days.
In 2018, two separate cases of people contracting Capnocytophaga canimorsus were reported in the US.
The man was transferred to intensive care, where he was diagnosed with severe sepsis and gangrene over the next few days.
"Pet owners with flu-like symptoms should urgently seek medical advice when their symptoms exceed those of a simple viral infection, which in this case were severe dyspnoea [difficulty breathing] and petechiae [red rash caused by broken blood vessels]", the researchers wrote in their case report.
According to a Netherlands study, these bacteria are so rare that they only affect one in every 1.5 million people and only cause death in 31% of cases. Dogs represent a "peculiar ecological niche for this bacterium", but it "doesn't cause illness in dogs, and it usually doesn't cause illnesses in anyone else, either", he said. They add that severe infections without actually being bitten by an animal are extremely rare. "The doctors told me I could have probably hit the lottery five times that day before I should have got what I got that day from a dog".
The man had not been bitten or injured by his dog before he died (file photo).
That being said, Schaffner said some people can not share this kind of intimacy with their dogs, namely individuals who live in an immunocompromised state.
Certain risk factors make people more vulnerable to the bacterial infection - namely, excessive alcohol use/abuse, people who have had their spleen surgically removed (splenectomy), and those with a compromised immune system (such as people with cancer, diabetes and HIV), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).