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Why You Should Never Let Your Dog Lick Your Face


Dr. Katie Spalding

Katie has a PhD in maths, specializing in the intersection of dynamical systems and number theory.

Freelance Writer


Luis Molinero/Shutterstock

It's all part of being a pet owner – sometimes, you're just going to get slobbered on. But, as one Wisconsin man has found out, what we might think of as harmless doggy affection could actually lead to some terrifying consequences.

Greg Manteufel, a 48-year-old man who had apparently enjoyed a long history of dog ownership, ended up in the emergency room last month after contracting a rare bacterial infection in his blood. Although the illness originally only caused flu-like symptoms in the previously-healthy man, it didn't take long for things to get worse. Much worse.


"It took a week and they were taking his legs," Dawn Manteufel, his wife, told local news outlet Fox 6 Now.

Yes, you read that right – Greg Manteufel ended up needing his legs, and then parts of his arms, amputated. The couple are now relying on online crowdfunding to help them afford prosthetics after the extreme treatment.

"We can't wrap our heads around it," Dawn Manteufel told the reporters. "[A]ll of the sudden, he's 48 years old and been around dogs all of his life... and this happens."

The cause of this horrifying illness? Not a bite from a rabid stray, but a friendly lick from his own pet pooch.


Dog bites are known to cause extreme medical problems, but we don't often worry about affectionate gestures like licks. Both, however, have the potential to spread Capnocytophaga, a bacteria found in the mouths of up to 74 percent of dogs and 57 percent of cats, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In fact, it can also be found in human mouths, and is usually not harmful – it causes what's known as "opportunistic infections", normally only affecting people with weakened immune systems. But when it takes hold, it can cause blistering, fevers, stomach problems, and life-threatening conditions such as sepsis, inflammation, and organ failure. In Manteufel's case, it caused a critical drop in blood pressure and circulation.

"This type of bacteria comes from the saliva of dogs. This infection in his blood triggered a very severe response on his body," confirmed Dr Silvia Munoz-Price, infectious disease specialist at the local hospital, to Fox 6 Now. "Sometimes it [blood pressure and circulation] decreases so much that the arms and legs just die."

This type of infection is particularly nasty – it can cause death within 72 hours, so the CDC urges people to be aware of the symptoms. Thankfully, it's also very rare, affecting only 0.67 people per million in a nationwide survey in the Netherlands, so dog owners shouldn't worry too much about their beloved pet landing them in a medical catastrophe.

"More than 99 percent of the people that have dogs will never have this issue," Dr Munoz-Price explained. "It's just chance."


[H/T: Live Science]


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