Man, 71, is hospitalised after catching a rare bug from his pet Chihuahua

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Written By Rivera Claudia

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  • The 71-year-old from Spain only attended hospital after seven days of symptoms
  • He was left struggling to breathe and medics discovered he was in septic shock

A man narrowly escaped death after catching pneumonia from his pet Chihuahua.

Doctors believe the 71-year-old, from the Canary Islands, may have caught a rare bug from being licked by his dog. 

He spent three weeks in hospital and was given an oxygen mask to help him breathe. 

The man, who wasn’t identified, also developed sepsis — the body’s violent internal reaction to an infection that can prove deadly. 

Before seeking help, the man had also suffered days of diarrhoea and a high fever. 

Doctors believe the 71-year-old, from the Canary Islands, may have caught a rare bug from being licked by his pet Chihuahua. He spent three weeks in hospital and was given an oxygen mask to help him breathe 

Yet he didn’t seek help for a week, according to doctors at Hospital Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, La Gomera. 

By this point, he was short of breath and coughing up yellow mucus. 

The man, a former smoker who led an active lifestyle but had type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and a lung disease, told doctors he hadn’t been scratched or bitten by his dog. 

Pneumonia symptoms and what to do if you contract it 

  • Adults over 65 are offered a single pneumonia vaccine, often alongside the annual flu jab. If you have a long-term health condition your GP may decide to offer you a booster dose every five years.
  • Not getting vaccinated can drastically increase the risk of hospitalisation and death from pneumonia
  • Symptoms are similar to flu. They include a fever, a dry cough, trouble breathing, a rapid heartbeat, a loss of appetite and chest pain.
  • If you suspect you have pneumonia, contact your GP or call 111. Call 999 if you or someone you care for is struggling to breathe, coughing up blood, has blue lips or a blue face, becomes confused or collapses.

Source: NHS


Medics rushed him for a chest x-ray which showed a ‘dense opacity’ on his right lung.

Opacity — hazy gray areas on the scans — can often indicate fluid in the airspace, a thickening of air space walls, thickening of lung tissue or damage to the blood vessels. 

Doctors diagnosed him with pneumonia complicated by septic shock and he was urgently given an oxygen mask to help regulate his breathing alongside antibiotics injected daily. 

Follow-up blood tests revealed he had contracted pasteurella multocida, a common bacteria found in a dog’s mouth. 

Medics said pneumonia ‘is rarely produced’ by the bug, although it typically triggers soft-tissue infections following bits and scratches from dogs and cats.

The man, however, told doctors he had not been scratched or bitten by his dog.

Although the team who treated him did not explicitly say he caught pasteurella multocida from a lick, they suggested it. 

Medics warned that sharing a bed with a dog, kissing them and letting them lick you were ‘risk behaviours’.

The man made a ‘good recovery’ six months after being discharged. 

His tale was published in the journal Respiratory Medicine Case Reports.

While anyone can catch pneumonia, babies and the elderly are most at risk of being badly affected.

About a third of cases come from a virus, such as flu or Covid, which makes its way into the lungs. 

However, the majority of severe cases of pneumonia are caused by bacteria and are likely to severely affect people who are suffering from other diseases, and therefore have a weakened immune system.


Sepsis occurs when the body reacts to an infection by attacking its own organs and tissues.

Some 44,000 people die from sepsis every year in the UK. Worldwide, someone dies from the condition every 3.5 seconds. 

Sepsis has similar symptoms to flu, gastroenteritis and a chest infection.

These include:

  • Slurred speech or confusion
  • Extreme shivering or muscle pain
  • Passing no urine in a day
  • Severe breathlessness
  • It feels like you are dying
  • Skin mottled or discoloured

Symptoms in children are:

  • Fast breathing
  • Fits or convulsions
  • Mottled, bluish or pale skin
  • Rashes that do not fade when pressed
  • Lethargy
  • Feeling abnormally cold

Under fives may be vomiting repeatedly, not feeding or not urinating for 12 hours. 

Anyone can develop sepsis but it is most common in people who have recently had surgery, have a urinary catheter or have stayed in hospital for a long time.

Other at-risk people include those with weak immune systems, chemotherapy patients, pregnant women, the elderly and the very young.

Treatment varies depending on the site of the infection but involves antibiotics, IV fluids and oxygen, if necessary.

Source: UK Sepsis Trust and NHS Choices


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