A dog bite in New Mexico can expose you to a number of possible infections, both viral and bacterial. You may already know about the risks of rabies and tetanus from dog bites, and how important it is to keep both yourself and your pets up to date on immunizations. However, you may not be aware of the risk of infection with Capnocytophaga bacteria. Though a less well-known potential effect of a dog bite, Capnocytophaga infection can cause severe and possibly life-threatening complications.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, both dogs and cats can carry Capnocytophaga. The bacteria occur in the animals’ saliva, which means that you can become infected through close contact with a carrier, even if the dog or cat does not bite you. However, a bite from the sharp teeth of a dog or cat may deliver the bacteria directly into your body tissues.

A Capnocytophaga infection can progress quickly. Symptoms can show up anywhere between one to 14 days after exposure. The complications can be severe and include gangrene, which can lead to amputation of digits or limbs; sepsis, an exaggerated reaction to infection that can lead to death; kidney failure or heart attack.

Within hours of the bite, you may notice blisters forming around the wound, along with draining pus, swelling or redness. Additional symptoms of Capnocytophaga infection can include the following:

  • Stomach pain with vomiting and/or diarrhea
  • Muscle/joint pain
  • Fever
  • Confusion
  • Headache

Because Capnocytophaga is bacterial rather than viral, there is no vaccine for it. Antibiotics may be effective at treating the infection.

The information in this article is not intended as legal advice but provided for educational purposes only.