Can My Dog Give Me a Blood Infection?

Dog attempting to lick owner

Unlike your dog, you've probably never had the urge to lick someone to show you care. Pets not only demonstrate affection by licking but may also pass along bacteria that can trigger serious infections in humans. Although the infections aren't common, they can be severe and life-threatening in some people.

What Types of Infections Can I Get from My Dog?

Your dog can pass along the bacteria responsible for E. coli, salmonella, and campylobacter infections. These infections affect your gastrointestinal system and cause diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea, and fever. Although a bout of E. coli can be very serious, particularly in older or younger people or those with compromised immune systems, it may not be as severe as a capnocytophaga canimorsus infection.

The blood infection initially causes headaches, muscle pain, fever, and other flu-like symptoms. As the infection worsens, vomiting, abdominal pain, and confusion can occur. A capnocytophaga infection can be life-threatening. Thirty percent of people sickened by the bacteria eventually die, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

If you have a capnocytophaga infection, you may be at increased risk of developing:

  • Cellulitis: This bacterial skin infection causes swelling, pain, and redness in any part of the body and often affects the lower legs.
  • Low Blood Pressure: Your blood pressure may drop to dangerous levels during your illness. If your blood pressure is too low, blood flow to your arms and legs may slow or stop, leading to death of the limbs and amputation.
  • Sepsis: The life-threatening condition occurs when inflammation triggered by your body's immune system damages your organs.
  • Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation: Clots in your small blood vessels may lead to organ damage and dangerous internal and external bleeding.

Who Is at Risk for Capnocytophaga?

Your skin serves as a protective barrier, preventing bacteria from entering your body. If you're healthy, a lick on your hand is unlikely to cause a capnocytophaga infection. The mucous membranes of your eye, nose, and mouth don't offer the same protection as your skin. In fact, they provide convenient pathways for bacteria to enter your body. Still, most people who receive the occasional lick on the face from their dogs never become sick.

A capnocytophaga infection is more likely to occur if you already have a condition or problem that affects your health, such as:

  • Loss of your spleen due to an accident or illness
  • Cancer
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Diabetes
  • Excessive alcohol use
  • Grave's Disease

An immune system disorder, like HIV/AIDs, or chemotherapy treatment can also increase your risk. If you have these conditions, a lick or bite, even it's minor, can lead to a capnocytophaga infection.

How can I avoid blood infections?

It's very unlikely that you'll ever develop a capnocytophaga infection if you're in good health. No matter what your health status, don't let your dog lick your skin if you have a cut, scratch, broken blister or open wound. Should your dog bite you or break your skin with its teeth, let your doctor know.

Bites, whether they're from a human or animal, may need medical attention. In fact, 1/3 of all hand infections are caused by human bites, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgery. Your doctor may recommend a tetanus shot and a course of antibiotics after a bite.

You may want to reconsider letting your dog lick your face, particularly if your pet enjoys sniffing feces, dead animals, or garbage while you're out for your daily walks. Although you still probably won't get sick if your dog bathes your face in saliva, avoiding this is the simplest way to prevent infections.

Licking, whether it occurs on the hand, face or another part of the body, should be avoided if you have a risk factor for capnocytophaga infections. Every time your dog tries to lick you, distract him or her with a toy, or follow Dogster's advice and stand up and turn away for a few seconds. Eventually, your pet will understand that licking prompts you to withdraw your attention.

Do you have questions about your dog's health? Contact us and let us know how we can help.

Sources:

New York Post: Man Has All Limbs Amputated After Dog's Lick Leads to Infection, 7/31/18

https://nypost.com/2018/07/31/man-has-all-limbs-amputated-after-dogs-lick-leads-to-infection/

Emerging Infectious Diseases: Diagnosing Capnocytophaga Canimorsus Infections, 2/06

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3373098/

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: How Do People Get Infected with Capnocytophaga? 10/16/18

https://www.cdc.gov/capnocytophaga/transmission/index.html

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Prevention of Capnocytophaga Infection, 10/16/18

https://www.cdc.gov/capnocytophaga/prevention/index.html

The New York Times: Should You Let Your Dog Lick Your Face? 10/21/16

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/22/us/should-you-let-your-dog-lick-your-face.html?_r=0

Dogster: Ask a Trainer: How Can I Get My Dog to Stop Licking Me? 10/6/15

https://www.dogster.com/lifestyle/ask-a-trainer-how-can-i-get-my-dog-to-stop-licking-me

Contact Us Today!

Contact us using the form or call us at 804-741-3200.

Testimonials

Read What Our Clients Say

  • "Dr. Evans was so patient and kind with our kitty "Cookie". Very caring and so helpful and answered many questions for me concerning her health. The office staff are kind, caring, and professional. The office is immaculate. I have never been to a vet where my pets and myself were treated so well. Love it and so glad to have found them. Best vet appointment ever!"
    Dorothy M.
  • "We have used the Q for over 15 years for our cats and our dogs. Dr. Mortimer is a genius at diagnosing and treating a wide array of issues, and we have relied on his skills to help our animals live to amazing ages. The staff is incredibly caring. They do everything possible to help when we call or come in with a sick animal. They truly care for our pets, and many of the staff will come out from the back to pet our dogs
    when they come in. They are so patient with shy animals like our ferally cat Stasha who needed laser treatments, and our Bagle Topsy who is afraid of her own shadow.Yes, they are not the cheapest vet in town, but they work with us on making a treatment plan we can afford, and we feel that the value and the care are well worth it. Thank you to everyone at the Q for their dedication and loving care."
    Sally M. / December 21, 2017
  • "Met with Dr. Hiser today for the first time. Everyone at the
    clinic--from the desk staff to the vet techs to the veterinarian were warm and welcoming. My dog Iris--who is often nervous around new people--was comfortable there and (I think) made a few new friends. Looking forward to a continued relationship with the clinic as my sweet girl grows up. Thanks, thanks thanks."
    Stephanie C. / June 27, 2018
  • "My three chihuahuas have been Dr. Mortimer's patients for over nine years. The expertise, love, and care demonstrated for each pet is extraordinary. The doctors and staff go the extra mile to help their patients and the parents. They are truly an amazing group that love and care for each pet. If there was a review rated outstanding, that would have been my choice!"
    Donna C. / June 10, 2018
  • "I would highly recommended QVH. All of the staff are so kind and compassionate. They are so willing to help and never mind answering any questions you may have, even if it's 100 questions they are so patient. They genuinely care and treat your pets as if they were their own. And I cannot say enough about Dr. Hiser. She is amazing. Even on her days off she would still call and check in on my dog. I am so appreciative of this place and the staff. It's a great feeling to be completely comfortable with putting your pets care in someone's else hands and trusting them to provide the best service."
    Taylor H. / August 25, 2018
  • "I have been seeing Dr. Evans for at least 20 years. Her manner, knowledge, staff and facility are exceptional. I am a health care provider myself and hold the care of my pets to the highest standards....and I have never had a second thought about the care or recommendations of Dr. Evans. I moved out of town 6 years ago....and drive 3 hours each way to see her."
    Kimberley W. / April 2, 2018
  • "Wouldn't trust my four-legged Kids to anyone else - they have guided us with all our dogs through the years. The entire staff is kind and patient with the animals (and their parents)."
    Karen K. / November 7, 2017

Featured Articles

Read about interesting topics

  • 6 Questions to Ask At Your Senior Pet's Next Check Up

    Want to keep your senior pet healthy and happy? Ask these six questions at your pet's next check up. ...

    Read More
  • Why the Controversy About Pet Vaccinations?

    As with anything, pet vaccinations can be too much of a good thing. Similar to parents who are learning more about vaccinations for children, veterinarians and pet owners alike are beginning to question some of the standard wisdom when it comes to protecting pets. There are certain fatal diseases against ...

    Read More
  • Pet Clothes: A Fashion Statement or a Necessity?

    There is nothing cuter than a pet in a colorful sweater, but do our furry friends really need to wear clothing? Although clothing is not a necessity for every pet, some animals benefit from a little extra protection during cold or damp days. Others enjoy wearing festive clothing during holidays or other ...

    Read More
  • Introducing a New Pet to Your Current Ones

    Pet Proofing Your Home Introducing your new pet to your current one is only a single part of the equation relating to taking a new pet home. You also have to make sure your new pet is comfortable in your home, which is a foreign environment to the animal. Like humans, animals can experience high levels ...

    Read More
  • Put Some Teeth Into Your Pet’s Dental Care

    According to the American Animal Hospital Association, nearly two-thirds of pets suffer from dental problems because their owners do not provide dental care for them. Imagine what would happen to your own teeth if they were never brushed or examined by a dentist. The same thing can happen with your pet’s ...

    Read More
  • Managing Pet Allergies in Kids

    Are you concerned that your child's allergies may mean that you will have to give up your pet? Although rehoming a pet may be necessary if allergies are severe, most children can live with pets if you are willing to make a few changes. The Problem About three in 10 people who have allergies are allergic ...

    Read More
  • Euthanasia: Saying Goodbye

    It's not easy to say goodbye to cherished pets, even those that have lived long, happy lives. Although you may hate the thought of life without your pet, euthanasia can be the kindest decision you can make when your friend is suffering. Making the Decision If your pet has been seriously injured in a ...

    Read More
  • Is a Wet Nose a Sign of a Healthy Pet?

    Have you ever heard that a wet nose is a sign that your pet is healthy? Although that's often the case, it's not always true. A moist nose can benefit your pet in several ways, but it doesn't necessarily guarantee good health. How Does a Wet Nose Help My Pet? Have you ever been woken at 5 a.m. by a cold, ...

    Read More
  • Obesity and Diabetes in Pets

    Think diabetes only affect people? Overweight pets may be at risk too. ...

    Read More
  • Does Your Cat Have a Grooming Problem?

    Noticed a sudden change in your cat's grooming habits? Over- or under-grooming can be a sign of trouble. ...

    Read More

Newsletter Signup

Sign up for more articles