Dog Scratch on Woman’s Hand Leads to Infection, Hip Replacement Surgery

It has happened to all pet owners at some point, with even the most gentle of pets.

A typical scratch from a dog on a U.K. woman’s hand resulted in massive, mysterious pain and eventually, surgery.

As first published in the medical journal BMJ Case Reports on Feb. 27, an anonymous 66-year-old female dog owner told doctors about a seemingly inexplicable and intense pain in her groin and hip region. After initial tests came back inconclusive and the woman was still suffering, her medical team finally pinpointed the source. It was a bacterial infection caused by Capnocytophaga canimorsus, a type of bacteria typically found in a cat or dog’s mouth.

Although the woman had had a total hip replacement 15 years earlier, she was otherwise healthy and fit. However, she did recall getting a small scratch on the back of her hand from her pup approximately four months prior to the beginning of her painful saga. After multiple exams, X-rays and biopsies, doctors finally discovered what had been ailing her 14 months later.

According to LiveScience, the X-rays revealed that the bone in her right hip had become thin and nearly destroyed, which resulted in her prosthetic joint loosening. In fact, the joint was severely infected. Although she was given antibiotics to treat the infection, she also ended up needing both a surgery to remove her infected hip, as well as another procedure to insert a new one.


Dr. Irasha Hettiarachchi, a medical microbiologist and lead author of the study at the University Hospital of Wales, said the dog in question most likely licked its paws which transmitted the bacteria from its mouth to its claws to its owner’s body. Her infection came on slowly, which is rare in these instances, although the case is only the third of its kind ever reported. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that Capnocytophaga is more likely to infect a human’s throat, mouth or eyes, though it can enter the body at other sites through the bloodstream.

While the woman has reportedly fully recovered from her ideal, ScienceAlert reports that 15 months post-surgery, she is still nervous about reinfection.

“The worry never goes away,” she says. “The fear that something similar could happen again is always at the forefront of my mind.”

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