US Woman Dies After Being Nipped At By Her New Puppy; Here’s What You Should Know About Capnocytophaga
Puppy (Photo Credits: Flickr, Jonathan Kriz)

Planning to adopt a pet? This South Milwaukee woman’s tragic end will make you change your mind. A 58-year-old woman Sharon Larson of Wisconsin, US died after being nipped by a puppy she recently adopted. According to the local media house WTMJ-TV, Sharon started experiencing flu-like symptoms within just two days after her new pet bit her hand. She was wheeled into the hospital where she was tested positive for Capnocytophaga, a bacteria found commonly in the mouths of cats and dogs.

Dan Larson, Sharon’s husband, told WTMJ, "I was told she could get struck by lightning four times and live, win the lottery twice … that's how rare this is supposed to be.” Sharon’s case comes days after a US man 48-year-old Greg Manteufel lost both his hands and legs after being licked by his family dog.

What Is Capnocytophaga?

The Center for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) says that Capnocytophaga is a bacteria that live in the mouths of dogs and cats, although they don’t affect the animals adversely. Under rare circumstances, the bacterium enters the human body through cuts in the skin, especially after being licked or nipped by cats and dogs. Around 74 percent of dogs and 57 percent cats have Capnocytophaga in their oral cavity. The infection is quite rare as people don’t commonly fall ill after coming in contact with pets.

But if the immune system is weak or if the person is taking certain immune-suppressing medication, he or she may be unable to fend off the bacteria and fight the infection. People who are addicted to alcohol, those who have removed their spleen for medical reasons and those who have HIV infection or cancer are also at risk of contracting the infection.

Symptoms of Capnocytophaga

People who get infected exhibit a range of symptoms such as blisters, redness, fever, diarrhoea, vomiting, headache and muscle/joint pain. These symptoms start showing within three to five days after coming in contact with the pet. Three in ten people who get infected die. But some infections can cause death within 24-72 hours.

The infection may result in septicaemia, endocarditis (inflammation of the heart lining) and abscesses. Long-term symptoms include gangrene, infection, heart attack or kidney failure.

How To Prevent The Disease

Although the safest thing to do is to limit contact with pets, any symptom should be reported within 14 days after the person gets bitten. If you are bitten by a cat or dog, it’s best to seek treatment right away. Here’s how you can prevent dog bites.


Antibiotics are the biggest weapons against Capnocytophaga infection. That’s why it is important to seek medical treatment immediately after you get bitten or infected. There are various antibiotics which will help kill the bacteria. Often the doctor may give a combination of antibiotics for better results.

Here's what you need to know about Capnocytophaga:

While dogs and cats make for great companions, pet lovers should be wary of the pathogens they harbour and the danger they pose to the children. Follow safety while handling pets such as cats and dogs and encourage your children to do the same. Do not dismiss any scratches or bites. Seek medical attention as soon as possible.