An 86-year-old woman went to the hospital with a fever, vomiting and pain in her right leg.
A blood test revealed Streptococcus canis, a bacterium rarely seen in humans. It can cause pneumonia and sepsis, among other complications.
The woman, from Israel, apparently contracted it because she let her dogs lick her feet.
The woman's case was published in the journal of Emergency Medicine. The lead author, Dr. Zohar Lederman, who was a physician at the Assuta Samson University Hospital in Israel at the time, said it was "highly likely" the woman had been infected by her dogs, the Daily Mail reported.
Lederman cautioned that dog licks are harmless for most people, but the woman had a weakened immune system and cracks in her skin — especially between her toes — that allowed the bacteria to enter her body and spread.
The woman was treated with antibiotics and left the hospital three days later.
Not everyone who has developed an infection from a dog lick has been that fortunate. Just this year, three people have been infected with the bacterium capnocytophaga canimorsus, which is commonly found in the mouths of dogs and cats.
Greg Manteufel, 48, of West Bend, Indiana, went to the emergency room in late June because he thought he had the flu. Doctors found capnocytophaga in his blood. The bacterium "caused the infection that left him bruised, dropped his blood pressure and decreased blood flow to his limbs." To save his life, doctors amputated both legs to the knees and arms to the midforearm.
Marie Trainer thought she’d caught the flu during a trip to the Caribbean. Her husband took her to the hospital, where doctors put her into a coma because her arms and legs had become necrotic and developed gangrene.
Doctors found capnocytophaga in her blood, likely from her dogs licking a scrape on her arm. Trainer underwent eight surgeries to remove infected tissue, but ultimately doctors had to amputate parts of both arms and both legs.
In Germany, a 63-year-old man recently died after he contracted a similar infection. In a paper published in the European Journal of Case Reports in Internal Medicine, doctors said the man went to the hospital with flu-like symptoms. He later developed sepsis and necrosis of the skin.
"He had been touched and licked, but not bitten or injured, by his dog, his only pet, in previous weeks," reads the paper, produced by doctors from the Red Cross Hospital in Bremen, Germany.
Doctors' treatments were unsuccessful, and the man died from multiple organ failure.
Although capnocytophaga infection is rare, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta says, it is possible.
People who are infected with capnocytophaga can have a range of signs and symptoms, such as:
- Blisters around the bite wound within hours of the bite
- Redness, swelling, draining pus or pain at the bite wound
- Diarrhea and/or stomach pain
- Headache and/or confusion
- Muscle or joint pain
After being bitten, most people who become ill will show symptoms within three to five days, but this can range anywhere from one to 14 days, the CDC states.