When Julie McKenna arrived at the hospital in Mildura, Australia, in 2007, she could barely speak. Her arms and legs to be cold and also mottled, and her confront was turning purple.

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Doctors quickly figured out that Julie remained in septic shock—bacteria in her bloodstream to be attacking she from within. Even after starting on antibiotics, the purple kept spreading, and her organs began to fail. Eventually, components of she arms and legs began transforming black.

She had actually been hospitalized for much more than 2 weeks before doctors were able to determine the bacteria in she blood. It was Capnocytophaga canimorsus, a bug commonly uncovered in the saliva of healthy and balanced dogs and cats.


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Only climate did Julie remember that she had scalded the optimal of she left foot in hot water a couple of weeks before she acquired sick. It wasn’t a poor burn, and she hadn’t thought much of it when her fox terrier puppy licked the wound.

Like Julie, most of us don’t really understand what’s swimming about in ours pets’ saliva, or just how dangerous it can be. Our skin and also immune systems typically stand between us and also our pets’ germs—but those systems can be breached.

About 10 come 15 percent of dog bites become infected, as do up to half of cat bites. Occasionally the aftermath are deadly: In one study, 26 percent of world with shown C. Canimorsus epidemic died. (Find out whether her dog would eat friend if friend died.)

Now, researchers have begun to explain all the bacterial varieties living in dogs’ and also cats’ mouths and also compare them to our own, and their job-related is revealing a hold of potential pathogens lurking in every slobbery kiss or scratchy lick.

In a puppy’s mouth, C. Canimorsus is no large deal. At least a quarter of every dogs and also many cats bring them. Humans generally don’t, and also once the bacteria got in Julie’s bloodstream, she body struggled come fight turn off infection.

Antibiotics eventually turned the tide, yet doctors had to amputate she left leg below the knee, part of her appropriate foot, and every among her fingers and toes. “It"s adjusted my life in every aspect,” she later told abc News in Australia.

Here space a few of the myths around our pets’ mouths and the fact of what coats them—and us—with each happen of the tongue.

Takes a Licking

If anyone to know what’s in a dog or cat’s mouth, it’s Floyd Dewhirst, a bacterial geneticist at the Forsyth Institute and professor the oral medication at Harvard. Dewhirst pioneered the research of the oral microbiome—all the bacteria that live in the mouth—in humans, dogs, and also cats.

About 400 to 500 bacterial types are common and abundant in the human being mouth, that says. Therefore far, Dewhirst and his colleagues have identified about 400 kinds of oral bacteria in dog and virtually 200 in cats, and also Dewhirst expects more will be uncovered with additional study.

One that the main reasons us can acquire infections from our pets, that says, is that our bacter ecosystems space so various from each other.

“If girlfriend look at humans and dogs, we just saw about 15 percent that are the very same species,” he says. So, plenty of of a dog’s mouth bacteria are much less likely to be kept in examine by ours immune systems and native bacteria. The dental microbiomes of cats and also dogs, on the other hand, overlap by about 50 percent. (Also find out what ancient DNA is reflecting us about cat domestication.)

“Part of that might be what the bacteria advanced to eat,” Dewhirst says. Human mouths are dominated by streptococcal bacteria, which are good at eating sugars. “Since cats and also dogs generally don’t eat too plenty of doughnuts, there’s nearly no strep,” he says.

A solitary lick can deposit untold numerous these unfamiliar bacteria, Dewhirst says, and they’ve been detected on human being skin hours later. As soon as studying the skin microbiome that humans, researchers were surprised to discover several human being with job of skin spanned in dog bacteria.

“So, if she licked through a dog, and someone were to take it a Q-tip five hours later and rub the spot, they could recover end 50 different species of dog-mouth bacteria,” he says.

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Healing Paws?

Weirdly, history is packed with lore arguing that canine saliva can heal fairly than harm. Dogs supposedly licked wounds at the ancient Greek holy place to Asclepius, the god the healing. And also there’s a long-running however unconfirmed story that Caesar’s military employed wound-licking dogs.