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March 1, 2017
By Susan Callahan, Contributing Columnist
The minute her cousin heard Edna's voice, she knew
something was wrong. Edna was slurring her words. Six
hours after an emergency hospital admission, Edna was
fighting for her life. Her kidneys had shut down and sepsis,
a raging bacterial infection, was beginning to shut down
her other organs. Fortunately, after two weeks of
intensive care, the doctors were able to stabilize her and
save her life.
What had caused Edna's brush with death? Where had the
bacteria which almost killed her come from?
Edna's case was reported in the British Medical Journal in
2016 by a team of doctors led by Dr. James Wilson of the
Department of Medicine for the Elderly, University College
It turns out, the source of the deadly "Capnocytophaga
canimorsus" bacteria was the patient's extremely
affectionate Italian greyhound pet dog.
The dog literally had almost given licked her to death.
Dogs and pets are the source of many diseases that can be
passed fairly easily to us humans.
Most of the diseases are caused by bites or scratches and
the problem is growing. Hospital admissions related to
injuries or diseases caused by dog bites are up 76% over
the past 10 years, according to the UK's National Health
Service. This number covers the 10 year period ending in
2015. In the United States, a 2012 US government study
led by Dr. Janet Sutton of the Agency for Healthcare
Research and Quality reported 318,000 hospitalizations
caused by dog bites in one year alone, resulting in a health
care cost of over $2 billion.
Any diseases which you can get from animals or animal
products is called a "zoonosis". Here are the 7 most
common zoonosis diseases you can get from dogs:
Campylobacteriosis is caused by the Campylobacter
bacteria. It is the most common cause of diarrhea in the
United States, according to the Centers for Disease
Control, affecting over 1.3 million people each year.
You are more likely to contract this bacteria from
undercooked meat and chicken.
Handling dog food can bring you in contact with this
bacteria. Unfortunately, a single drop of uncooked chicken
juice can contain enough campylobacteriosis to make you
You can also contract campylobacteriosis by coming into
contact with dog stool.
In people with compromised immune systems, becoming
infected by campylobacteria can lead to sepsis, blood
poisoning, which ultimately can lead top death.
Dogs with campylobacteriosis often show no symptoms or
only show slight symptoms such as a mild fever, so you
can contract the disease and be totally unaware of it until
it has well taken hold of you.
2. Capnocytophaga canimorsus
This is the disease that almost killed Edna. Dogs carry this
bacteria in their mouths and can pass it on to you when
they lick or bite you, even affectioonately.
Symptoms include dizziness, slurring of words,
disorientation, and in the later stages, seizures and organ
When dogs are attacked by fleas, they sometimes eat
them. Fleas can enter the dogs mouth pr attack their food
and enter the dog through the food. Tapeworm,
technically called "Dipylidium caninum" is transmitted by
fleas, into dogs, and from dogs, to humans.
Tapeworms make themselves quite at home in the
intestines of dogs and humans.
Symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, fever and an
increase in your appetite. Some types of tapeworm can
also cause a loss of appetite.
Hookworms are found in soil and can be transmitted to
dogs when dogs lick their paws. You then get them when
you come into contact with the dog's feces with you walk
around barefoot or sit on the ground.
The clearest sign of hookworm is an itchy rash on your
skin called "cutaneous larva migrans". You may have a
squiggly red line on your skin where the worm entered.
Not too pleasant to think about, is it?
There are three common species of hookworm and they all
can infect you--- ancylostoma caninum, ancylostoma
braziliense, and uncinaria stenocephala.
Fortunately, hookworm does not usually cause serious
complications and ordinarily clears up on its won in about
6 itchy weeks.
Perhaps the best known of the diseases you can get from
dogs is rabies. Rabies is almost always fatal if it progresses
to the point where symptoms appear.
These symptoms in humans include feeling tired and weak,
headache and fever, followed by confusion, changes in
behavior and delirium.
Rabies is transmitted by a bite from a sick dog. A rabid dog
shows symptoms of behavior change and ultimately
Because rabies is fatal, you should be vaccinated to
prevent infection, especially if you are around animals.
Fortunately, rabies deaths are rare in the United States,
with the Centers for Disease Control reporting only 34
cases since 2003.
Roundworm parasites from dogs, called "Toxocara canis"
can infect humans, enter the eye and cause blindness.
Toxocara eggs can exist for weeks in soil. The larvae of the
parasite exist in the feces of dogs. Dogs poop on the
ground. Then, if you work with soil, perhaps while
gardening or mowing the lawn, or even walk in the
parasite on the soles of your shoes, you can accidentally
touch the parasite and off you go --- you are infected.
Some studies suggest that almost 100% of puppies are
born with roundworm and thus can infect you. The
Centers for Disease Control puts the figure closer to 30%
of all puppies younger than six months, citing a 1996
Roundworms in any place other than your eye can be fairly
easily treated with albendazole or mebendazole
antibiotics. If roundworm is in your eye, you are in
serious trouble and need to have intensive care to prevent
losing your sight.
All of which are good reasons to be especially careful
about cleaning up after puppies and dogs.
A dog with brucellosis will have trouble reproducing. A
dog may therefore have a miscarriage and leave some of
the fetal tissue around, in teh yard, your home or
elsewhere. That's where you come in. You may
accicdentally step in the material in the yard or around
your home and contract the disease.
•swelling of your testicle and scrotum area
•swelling of your heart
•swelling of the liver or spleen or both
According to the CDC, death from brucellosis only occurs
in 2% of the cases --which doesn't make me feel much
better ---and most cases can be cleared up with antibiotics.
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|Dog licks can give you a deadly disease.
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