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'Being Licked by a Dog Can Be Fatal'

Doctors describe rare case in Germany
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 26, 2019 12:08 PM CST
Updated Dec 1, 2019 1:07 PM CST
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Beware the dog (or cat) lick.   (Getty Images/sanjagrujic)

(Newser) – A man has died of multiple organ failure in Germany, where doctors blame a lick from his own dog. The 63-year-old had been completely healthy before experiencing three days of fever and difficulty breathing. Arriving at a hospital, he was found to suffer from severe sepsis and the sepsis-associated disorder purpura fulminans, which causes bruising and bleeding that can rapidly progress to necrosis, reports CNN. His condition worsened over the next 30 hours, with signs of kidney and liver failure, in addition to malfunctions in the brain and intestine. At one point he suffered cardiac arrest but was resuscitated, according to doctors at Bremen's Red Cross Hospital. They traced the infection to the bacterium capnocytophaga canimorsus, which is found in the mouths of many dogs and cats but rarely passed to humans, who survive about 75% of cases.

An Ohio woman survived, but had her legs and hands amputated, after a puppy licked her open cut earlier this year, per CNN. A Wisconsin man also required amputations after contact with multiple dogs last year. But this case was a weird one. While most severe episodes occur in people with a weakened immune system, a history of alcoholism, or those without a spleen, per USA Today, the German patient who died after 16 days in intensive care had none of those underlying preconditions. Nor was he bitten, which is thought to result in "a higher bacterial concentration." Rather, "he only touched and was licked by his dog," say doctors, whose case report is titled "Being Licked by a Dog Can Be Fatal." (More on the aforementioned other cases here and here.)

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