An Ohio business owner’s rapid downward spiral to near-death began innocently enough — with an affectionate lick on her arm from one of her two pet dogs.
Marie Trainer’s symptoms emerged shortly after, according to Fox 8. She felt nausea, her temperature acted erratically, and after being taken to the hospital, her condition kept worsening. Sepsis set in, and she developed gangrene. The hospital staff put Trainer in an induced coma.
Tests concluded that the cause of infection was capnocytophaga, a germ commonly found in dogs and cats that can be contagious after close contact. Most of the time exposure to it does not result in the serious consequences that Trainer faced.
Doctors believe that the germ may have entered her body through a small scrape on her arm.
Dr. Margaret Kobe, who is the medical director of infectious disease at the hospital where Trainer was treated, said of capnocytophaga: “[It is] fairly common in the oral flora or the mouth of a dog and it can be transmitted through a bite or sometimes just contact with saliva. That organism is very virulent. It has the ability to induce your immune system to do some pretty horrible things.”
Capnocytophaga, normal bacteria found in the mouths of people, dogs and cats. Exposure through contact usually is not serious, but in rare cases, can lead to serious infections, including sepsis.
(Centers for Disease Control)
Kobe told the news outlet that Trainer’s serious reaction to the dog’s licking is highly rare, occurring in about one in a million people.
Last year, a Wisconsin man lost his hands, feet and parts of his arms and legs to a rare blood infection transmitted by dog saliva. Greg Manteufel has undergone at least 10 surgeries during which surgeons amputated parts of each of his limbs because circulation to his extremities shut down due to the infection. He is now learning to walk again on prosthetics.
And a Canadian mother whose dog bit her in a game of tug-of-war in 2013 became infected after her pet bit her. Her condition worsened, and she developed sepsis, requiring doctors to amputate three limbs, according to the Caters News Agency. The woman, Christine Caron, told the news agency that she had committed to raising awareness about sepsis.
Meanwhile, Kobe told the Fox 8 that neither she nor Trainer want people to become afraid of their pets, but they want them to be aware of germs that can cause infections during interactions, and to recognize the symptoms.
“If you get bit by a dog you definitely need to go on antibiotics and to wash your hands when playing with a dog, especially with an open cut," Kobe told the outlet.