The vast majority of dog owners and dog lovers would never think about it – a reaction to a saliva-borne bacteria so severe it results in amputation after a dog bite.

Robin Sullins resides in Texas, she is 48 years old, has four children, and now has suffered the devastating loss of both her legs below the knee and almost all of her fingers. She was bitten while breaking up a dog fight during Christmas of 2012. Within 48 hours she was on her way to the emergency room with symptoms of vomiting, fever and chills. The doctors did not know what to make of it at first, and her condition got much worse. Her organs began to fail and according to her mother Carole, “We’re talking respirator, dialysis, feeding tube, being kept alive.”

The culprit was a bacteria found in her bloodstream that is present in the saliva of roughly a third of cats and dogs called Capnocytophaga Canimorsus. Though not entirely understood yet, for anyone with pre-existing conditions, reactions like this could occur after any saliva contact, including being licked by your furry friends. However, doctors said Robin’s reaction is extremely rare. Once in her bloodstream, the bacteria caused an infection to spread to her body’s regulatory and inflammatory mechanisms. This sepsis caused clotting in the vessels leading to her hands and legs, forcing doctors to make the difficult decision to amputate.

Marty Becker, a veterinarian from North Idaho Animal Hospital was quoted while talking about how to prevent something like this tragic incident. He referred to keeping good oral care habits for our pets, including daily brushing and occasional professional cleaning to help keep our cats and dogs mouths as clean as possible.

Donations can be made to help with the medical costs here.

Written By: Karen Russell