Do u know that about 70% of families own a pet and 50% of these pets are either dogs or cats.

As owners we expect our “good” pets to miss us and always welcome us anytime we get back home from the outside world and some of  the signs of pets missing its owners are; barks for dogs or meows for cats, running around excitement and finally tongue shakes and licking; which serve also as a sign of belonging.

But what happens when a dog or a cat licks your skin or even when threatened, aggressively bites you? Do you know that in the mouths and gums of dogs, cats and animals in general, many kinds of germs (bacteria) are found? The most common type is the capnocytophaga bacteria, but it is not harmful to the host (dogs and cats).

 This group of bacteria can also be found in the mouth of humans but is not harmful to the host(humans). Now this genus of bacteria from dogs and cats can actually cause serious infection to humans when it enters the human body.

Incubation and Transmission

Dog bites accounts for about 65% of all animal bites in the world, about 19% of which results in injuries and the number of victims requiring constructive surgery as a result of the bites is overwhelming.

Capnocytophaga canimorsus (most common bacteria causing the infections) is transmitted through bites, scratches and close contact with the pet.

The bacteria has an incubation period short as one day pan duo to two weeks but signs and symptoms usually begin 3 to 8 days after bites or licks.

Risk factor of Capnocytophaga

Individuals likely to be prone to infections of this bacteria include people with low immune defenses (impaired immunity).

Those especially at risk are;

  • People who may have no spleen: Some chronic spleen disease can result to the surgical removal of the spleen or who those who suffer from impaired spleen functions. Spleen is part of the immune system that helps to filter blood and also, they help to fight certain bacterial.
  • People with liver disease like cirrhosis, fatty liver disease, haemochromatosis and cancer
  • People who consume excess alcohol or are addicts to alcohol-like substances
  • Infants
  • People already suffering from uncontrolled diabetes
  • People with inherited or acquired immune deficiencies, for example advanced HIV infected patients and certain cancers
  • People undergoing chemotherapeutic treatments or treatment for rheumatologic disorder (diseases affecting the joints, bones and muscles).

Signs and Symptoms of Capnocytophaga

Capnocytophaga infections may pose a great treat to human beings and it’s even a greater threat to those under the risk factor category (those that are immune system impaired).

The signs and symptoms of this infection may occur suddenly, without evidence of an infected bite or it may occur gradually.

Signs and symptoms among others include;

  • Fever
  • Pains at joints and muscles (especially around the bite site)
  • Confusion
  • Migraine headaches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Stomach pain and diarrhea
  • Blisters
  • Pus and blisters within hours at the bite site
  • Shaking chills or unusually cold

As the infection progresses and becomes more severe, other signs may surface, including:

  • Septic shock (a widespread infection that causes organ failure)
  • Low blood pressure
  • Pale coloration of skin
  • Increase pulse rate
  • Inability to breath
  • Rash
  • Heart failure due to low blood pressure
  • Kidney failure (inability to make urine)
  • Gangrene sets in (dead tissues caused by an infection or lack of blood flow at limbs, digits, nose, ear) causing serious change in color.

Treatments of Capnocytophaga

Capnocytophaga is diagnosed by detecting them in the blood. Bacteria cultures are grown by laboratory scientist in the labs and these cultures can be used to ascertain the particular type of bacteria in the blood and also give useful information about the antibiotics that can and cannot be used against the infection.

Antibiotics are generally used to fight against bacterial infections, and this is very effective prescription for capnocytophaga bacteria.

It is very important to seek your doctor if you believe that you might be infected with the bacteria or after any bite from an animal or even a human.

Different antibiotics can be used to treat Capnocytophaga bacteria and a victim may be required to take more than one antibiotic for effective recovery.

First aid treatment for a victim after been bitten is,

  • Quickly wash the bite site carefully with soap and clean water,
  • Apply a sterile bandage to the wound,
  • Apply antibiotic ointment on the wound daily
  • Seek the attention of a qualified doctor.

For oral administration of antibiotics, antibiotics like amoxillin, ampicillin-clavulanate, ceftazidime, clindamycin, ceftriaxone, cefepime or doxycycline could be very useful.

Also, certain injection might be administered by the doctor which boosts the recovery processes.  


For people with higher risk of infection, can be infected after a close contact with a dog or cat especially those with impaired immune system conditions. They are advised to totally stay away from pets.

However, this may not be possible as pet play a life enriching role for many people, thus, it may be more helpful to avoid frequent contact by

  1. Limiting sleeping with your pet
  2. Limit lively and noisy plays that lead to scratches and bites
  3. Avoid contact of pet saliva with old wounds or broken skin, eyes nose and mouths.
  4. Avoiding regular close contacts with pets
  5. Always keep your dogs and cats clean by carrying out proper hygienic procedures on your pets and its environments.
  6. If you discover animals do not generally like you or tend to be aggressive towards you, please keep off them and always respect warnings against dogs.  

Apart from capnocytophaga, dog/cat bites can also pose a risk for rabies, tetanus and serious infection due to staphylococcus aureus, streptococcus and pasteurella multocida.


Recent reports about a rare infection spread by dogs and cats are causing concerns among animal lovers and pet owners.

As difficult as it is to pronounce, Capnocytophaga bacteria infection is difficult to treat. While it is harmless to cats and dogs, it is deadly to humans as 3 out of 10 people die of the infection within 48 to 72 hours of infection.

Caution should be put in place by owners to prevent this infection among their household especially the infants and those suffering from immune system impairments.

Keep your pets and its environment clean and make sure to brush and clean them up especially their mouths as capnocytophaga is found in the mouth and gum.