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Saliva of dogs and cats: what risks?

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Saliva of dogs and cats: what risks?

We have heard a lot recently in 2018 about the bacteria found in dog saliva Capnocytophaga canimorsus. This bacteria is actually naturally present in the mouths of dogs and cats and it can be responsible for zoonosis: that is to say that it can be transmitted and cause infection in humans. What are the risks associated with this bacteria? How to protect yourself? Is saliva from dogs and cats dangerous?

Summer 2018: an American is hospitalized and had to have his 4 limbs amputated following an infection by Capnocytophaga canimorsus. He had just been licked by a dog. Amputation was necessary because significant lesions of necrosis had appeared following disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC) linked to severe sepsis, in order to prevent the infection from spreading to the vital organs. Severe sepsis is a serious condition of sepsis, an inflammatory reaction caused by infection with clinical signs such as fever, increased heart and / or respiratory rate, hypotension, altered mental status and dysfunction of various organs.

In February and then in September 2017, 2 cases of death in France were reported following the bite by a dog.

In April 2018, in Charente-Maritime, a Frenchman died following a septic shock caused by this same bacteria Capnocytophaga canimorsus, the man lived with a dog but no bite history is reported, nor was he immunocompromised.

In Modena, Italy, another case of death was reported in August 2018: the patient succumbed to septic shock (with fulminant purpura) two days after being bitten by a dog. She had been brought to the hospital for fever, confusion and abdominal pain. She soon after her arrival presented cyanosis, significant hypotension, renal failure. She died of cardiac arrest (multi-organ failure).

Capnocytophaga canimorsus is a so-called bacteria commensal, that is to say naturally present in the saliva of dogs and cats.

As we know, the mouth (like the mouth in humans) is a medium loaded with bacteria. Why is there so much fear of dog saliva than of man? Quite simply because the dog uses its language much more to explore its environment, to communicate, to show us its affection, compared to a human…

The bacteria saliva can be dangerous if they get into the blood (We are talking about septicemia). This passage into the blood can be done by bite, scratch (after the claws have been licked when grooming the cat for example), or by licking a sore or contact with a more fragile area of ​​the body (eye for example or mucous membranes).

The dangerousness of a bacterium depends on its pathogenic power and on the place where it is: in its environment (the mouth) Capnocytophaga canimorsus is not dangerous, but if it gets into the blood, it is very dangerous.

Factors favoring a serious infection have been demonstrated and in particular a immunosuppression (i.e. the immune system is not as effective as an ordinary person in fighting infection, for example during acquired immunodeficiency, immunosuppressive treatment, after an organ transplant, in people elderly, etc.), the smoking and alcoholism.

Thehuman infection with Capnocytophaga canimorsus is rare (only 4 cases reported in France in 18 months), But she is often serious, that’s why it’s important that healthcare professionals and dog and cat owners are aware of this.

It is very important to remember that even if a dog or cat bite wound does not appear infected, any occurrence of fever in the days that follow must absolutely motivate a doctor consultation and the introduction of antibiotic treatment. The evolution of a septic shock caused by Capnocytophaga canimorsus can be fatal in 30 to 60% of cases.

In general, and in order to prevent infection, you must avoid being licked by your dog on damaged or fragile skin, you must wash after licking, and perform a long wash and disinfection after a bite even small or after contact between the animal's saliva and damaged / damaged skin.

The main thing is really to react immediately to the slightest sign of fever, abdominal pain or weakness following such contact or a bite by an animal: consult your doctor immediately.

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