Few things in this world are as pure and satisfying as kisses from your dog. When they lick your legs, your arms, and your face, it's their way of telling you they love you. However, you might have heard reports of people contracting terrible illnesses from dog kisses as well. Some have even needed their limbs amputated. So, what is this disease, and what are your chances of contracting it from your dog? Here's everything you need to know.
Recently in the news, there was a story about a woman from Ohio who was hospitalized with severe fever, nausea, and other symptoms. Her skin started turning an odd color as well. Doctors thought the illness was something she had brought back from travelling, but in fact, it was a disease called necrotizing fasciitis, contracted from allowing her dog to lick an open cut on her body. In the end, both her hands and legs had to be amputated to stop the spread of the disease.
Necrotizing fasciitis is also called flesh eating bacteria. It's most common in older dogs, or in puppies, whose immune systems aren't as strong. The disease progresses extremely quickly, so if you think your dog might have it, get them to the vet immediately for diagnosis and treatment. Some symptoms include:
- Skin lesions and discoloration, particularly around the legs
- Intense pain, seemingly disproportional to the bruising
- Localized swelling
Treatment for flesh eating bacteria includes antibiotics, administered intravenously, as well as plasma transfusions. Depending on how far the disease has progressed, your dog might also require surgery, or even amputation of one or more of their legs, to arrest the infection.
Protecting Against Infection
There have been a few cases in the last few years of dogs with necrotizing fasciitis passing it on to their owners, through licking. So, does this mean you should stop letting your dog kiss you? What are your chances of getting flesh eating bacteria?
Honestly, fairly low. It's rare in dogs, and for them to pass it on to humans is even less common. Just like with dogs, the people who are most susceptible to it are the ones with weakened immune systems - for instance, if you have cancer or HIV, or have recently had a transplant. Diabetes sufferers are also at increased risk of infection.
It's also important to remember that it's not just any dog kisses that pass on the disease, but specifically from dogs licking an owner's open wound. If you want to protect yourself, just make sure that any cuts, scrapes, or other broken skin you might have is carefully bandaged, so your dog's tongue can't reach it. (Honestly, keeping cuts bandaged and disinfected is good advice for anyone, dog owner or not.)
If you suspect your dog might have passed an infection on to you, go to the doctor immediately and let them know your concerns. Since the disease is so fast progressing, the earlier they can spot it, the more likely they'll be able to treat it without serious consequences.
Don't let fear of infection keep you from enjoying kisses from your furry friend. But at the same time, be careful, and protect both yourself and your dog as best you can. With the right precautions and a bit of vigilance, both you and your dog should be able to live long, happy lives, full of plenty of kisses to come.