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  Life   Health  07 Aug 2019  Kiss of love: Are dog licks safe?

Kiss of love: Are dog licks safe?

Published : Aug 7, 2019, 5:18 pm IST
Updated : Aug 7, 2019, 5:18 pm IST

Instant mood lifters, dog licks can unknowingly cause some serious health scares.

Keep your wounds protected from dog licks. (Photo: Representationa/Pexels)
 Keep your wounds protected from dog licks. (Photo: Representationa/Pexels)

Dogs are known for showering us with generous amounts of affection and loyalty. They can magically sense when we’re hurt or feeling low, and then pamper us with all those snuggles or kisses. While being well-intentioned, these licks can sometimes prove to be dangerous for us.

Recently, an Ohio woman fell prey to her German Shepherd puppy’s kisses. She contracted a rare infection after it licked an open cut and she ended up having both her legs and hands amputated. The bacteria from the dog’s mouth had spread to her body through the infected scratch.

This brings us to examine our perception of happiness-inducing dog kisses. Are they safe? Are they a matter of extreme concern? Is it the best to stay away from them altogether? Here’s what you need to know, according to Lifehacker:

When to be bothered about a dog kiss

Considering everything that a dog touches with its tongue, from garbage to toilet water, and other dirty things that it finds attractive, you’d probably want its tongue off you. In a video released by the Mayo Clinic, Pritish Tosh, MD, an infectious disease specialist, dog kisses are fine, but open wounds should be kept away at all costs.

Dogs’ mouths are full of bacteria all the time, just like humans. The Centers for Disease Control state that up to 74 percent of dogs have Capnocytophaga (the bacteria that infected the Ohio woman) in their mouths at any given time, as a part of their natural microbiome.

Normally, for most people, dog licks aren’t a source of illness. However, amongst the sections prone to falling ill, cancer patients, pregnant people, the aged, alcohol addicts, those taking medications, like steroids are the most vulnerable, according to CDC.

Signs of infection                                                                

Usually, the signs and symptoms aren’t immediately visible. The CDC says the signs come to light anytime between a day and two weeks after you’ve been licked. Cat lovers, you’re not out of this- Capnocytophaga can be transmitted to your body if a cat licks open cuts or bites you.

The CDC lists down a range of signs and symptoms of a Capnocytophaga infection. Look out for these in case a dog or a cat licks an open wound:

  • Blisters around the bite wound within hours of the bite
  • Redness, swelling, draining pus, or pain at the bite wound
  •  Fever
  •  Diarrhoea and/or stomach pain
  •  Vomiting
  •  Headache and/or confusion
  •  Muscle or joint pain

Upon noticing any of these symptoms, it’s advisable to seek immediate medical attention. Capnocytophaga infection can result in serious complications, like heart attack, kidney failure and gangrene—as a result, some people might have to get their fingers, toes, and in some cases, limbs amputated, like the Ohio woman.

Such infections are very rare, but nothing can be overlooked when your life is at stake. Three in 10 people who develop a severe infection die as a result. In some cases, prescribed antibiotics kill these bacterial germs, and help in recovering.

Preventing infection

While most of us have been warned about rabies arising from dog bites, dog licks are never heeded to. But now you know, that open cuts, or injured areas need to be protected from dog and cat licks. The first and foremost remedy is to wash your open wound with soap and water if a pet licks it. Contact your doctor, even if the effects aren’t immediately felt. Check for symptoms and keep an eye on your wound.

While it’s absolutely fine to play with your pet and feel loved by its licks, a little attention can save you from this scary infection.

Tags: infection, pets