We’ve likely all had a friendly dog give us a slobbery smooch at some point in our lives but, in some cases, it can actually be fatal.
Any good dog lover will tell you their dog loves to show its love by delivering a slurpy lick directly to their face. Cats are not as liberal with their affection licking but are also known to groom their owners. It’s a nice sign for any cat lover that their pet really does adore them — even if it feels like sandpaper.
But there are instances where a scratch, lick or play bite has led to serious illness or even death for the owner.
The most recent case happened a few short days ago in Australia. It was reported by the Herald Sun that an elderly Melbourne woman died of bacterial meningitis — an infection of bacteria in the bloodstream.
It’s suspected the 80-year-old woman was infected after her cat, which she slept with nightly, licked an open wound. A bacterium found in the mouths of dogs and cats, pasteurella multocida, is suspected to have caused the woman’s death but other deadly bacteria, including bartonella, can be found too.
Of course, not every lick or play bite will lead to certain death but experts explained they saw at least one patient a week with symptoms developing from a pet scratch or lick.
Part of the reason some cases end in tragedy is due to the health of a person. The elderly, the young and the pregnant are likely to face more serious cases while some healthy people can shrug off minor infections. Still if you’re feeling unwell and your pet has recently licked a wound or given you a smooch, it’s always worthwhile mentioning it to your doctor.
Symptoms of meningitis are not particularly distinct from a flu and can include high fever, stiff neck and severe headache.
At the end of the day, it’s a personal decision. Sure, a little dog lick can be cute from time to time but in rare cases it can also mean getting seriously ill and death. Will it stop some people from letting it happen ever again? Surely not but at least now you can weigh up that decision with the facts.