A Toronto, Canada, man died four weeks after his pet cat bit him.
The 68-year-old man went to the hospital complaining of weakness and generalized abdominal pain after he collapsed in his home, according to a case study by Doctors Dennis Dane Cho, Yaniv Berliner, and David Carr presented in the World Journal of Clinical Cases.
The man lost roughly 22 pounds in two weeks and was experiencing chills without a fever.
Four weeks before his hospital visit, he was treated with an antibiotic for a bite on his right thumb from his pet cat.
Antibiotics normally cure or prevent bacterial infections that may result from animal bites. In this case, the cat bite healed, but the antibiotic did not prevent a bacterial infection.
The bacteria Pasteurella multocida, which lives in many pets mouths, caused a nearly four-inch wide aneurysm in the abdominal section of the man’s aorta, the vessel that delivers blood to most of the body.
His aorta ruptured and surgery was performed to fix a portion of it with a tube graft. He was also treated with penicillin.
Thirteen days later, the man developed septic shock and died.
Doctors' initially dismissed the idea that the cat bite was the cause of the man’s ailments and subsequent death.
“Sometimes as physicians we roll our eyes at information that seems to be extraneous,” Cho admitted to the Vancouver Sun. “Only looking back did we realize this was probably the key to unlocking the true diagnosis.”
The doctors' are now warning other physicians to be vigilant and act quickly if the rare, but deadly, cat-bite complication is suspected in a patient.
“There is a whole host of places where these bacteria can latch onto, which is why it’s kind of a scary thing,” Cho said. “The long-term consequences are not recognized and probably under-detected.”
Animal bites are common and account for over 300,000 emergency department visits per year in the U.S., the case study notes. Cat bites are less common than dog bites, but are more likely to become infected.