If you are a dog owner there is a good chance your pet has licked your face at least once. However, in light of a recent report you may want to be a bit more cautious about how your dog expresses affection.
According to a report published in the British Medical Journal an elderly woman in the UK contracted sepsis, or blood poisoning, after being licked by her dog. The paper, titled The Lick of Death, explains that the woman fell ill and was taken to hospital; her speech was slurred and she had a high fever, diarrhea, and a headache.
Following blood tests, the cause of the sepsis was found to be Capnocytophaga canimorsus bacteria. This left the doctors mystified, as this type of bacteria is commonly found in the mouths of cats and dogs, and is sometimes seen in people who have been bitten, but there was no sign of any scratches or bites on the woman's body.
Attention turned to the patient's dog; a friendly Italian Greyhound, which the woman said she allowed to lick her. The authors of the report warned that a dog's lick, as well as bites, are capable of transmitting harmful bacteria.
There has long been debate over whether pet parents should allow their dogs to lick them, but North Shore University Hospital and Long Island Jewish Medical Center Chief of Infectious Diseases Bruce Farber told CBS News that such a reaction from a lick is rare, and that the bacteria only usually affects those with weakened immune systems.
While studies have shown that dogs' mouths can carry harmful pathogens, Farber emphasized that people should not be worried about getting an infection if a dog 'kisses' them, but that dogs should not be allowed to lick newborn babies as their immune systems will not be strong enough to fight any affection that may occur.