A man died from “multi-organ failure” after being licked by his dog.
The unnamed 63-year-old developed a fever, muscle pain and laboured breathing a few weeks after he was salivated on by the canine.
After going to hospital, tests showed signs of kidney damage and “liver dysfunction”.
The man, from Germany, was transferred to intensive care. He was then diagnosed with severe sepsis and gangrene over the next few days.
Tests showed that the bacteria Capnocytophaga canimorsus, found in the saliva of cats and dogs, was in his blood.
Sixteen days after he arrived at hospital, his family made the decision to have his life support turned off.
C. canimorsus infections are rare and tend to only affect those with a suppressed immune system, no spleen, or alcohol problems, the man’s doctors wrote in the European Journal Of Case Reports In Internal Medicine.
If caught, the infection is fatal in around a quarter of cases, they added.
Transmission via licking, with no biting or scratching, is “very rare”. Just one case had previously been reported in an otherwise healthy patient.
The deceased went to the Rotes Kreuz Krankenhaus hospital in Bremen after battling flu-like symptoms for three days.
Although he had no open wounds, the man had small, red spots on his skin, as well as bruising.
With no headache or neck stiffness, meningitis was quickly ruled out.
Tests showed that his immune cells and platelets, which cause blood to clot when the skin is cut, were abnormally low. He also showed signs of inflammation.
After being diagnosed with sepsis, the man was treated with antibiotics.
Despite doctors’ best efforts, his condition deteriorated over the next two days.
He developed brain damage and “paralytic ileus”, obstruction of the intestine due to paralysis of the muscles.
After being resuscitated from a cardiac arrest, the man was put on a ventilation machine that “breathed” for him.
Four days into his hospital stay, blood tests showed C. canimorsus.
Despite further antibiotics, the man developed epidermolysis of the entire body. This occurs when the skin becomes very fragile, tearing at the slightest touch.
A CT scan showed signs of lung disease, which the doctors put down to “probable” pneumonia.
Despite upping his antibiotic regimen, all the man’s limbs turned gangrenous, with a brain scan also revealing a severe lack of oxygen to the vital organ.
A “joint decision to de-escalate therapy was made with relatives”, the authors wrote.
The team urge pet owners to seek medical help if symptoms “exceed those of a simple viral infection”, like laboured breathing or small, red skin spots.
If a patient presents with the above or bruising, doctors should ask when they last came into contact with pets, the authors added.