The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is warning pet owners that some pups may be carrying a bacteria that's commonly associated with food poisoning.

By Faith Brar
December 18, 2019

Puppies make the world an infinitely more joyful place. But this week, your favorite furry friends have been linked to something a little less joyful—namely, a multi-state bacterial infection outbreak, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Specifically, puppies from pet stores may be carrying a strain of Campylobacter jejuni, one of the most common bacterial causes of food poisoning in the U.S. At least 30 cases of the illness—which appears to be resistant to multiple types of commonly recommended antibiotics—have been reported across 13 states, including four hospitalizations, according to the CDC. Of the 24 people interviewed by the CDC, 21 people said they came in contact with a puppy shortly before becoming ill, and 15 people reported contact with a puppy from a pet store. Though the CDC has yet to identify a single source of the outbreak, the agency says that 12 of the 30 reported cases have been linked to Petland stores. (Related: Top 15 Ways Puppies Improve Your Health)

Shutterstock/Dan Flake

"Petland takes the health and welfare of our employees, our customers, and our pets very seriously," the company said in a statement, adding that Petland stores across the country have "implemented all recommended protocols from federal and state animal and public health officials" to prevent illnesses in both humans and puppies to the best of their ability.

So how does the illness spread exactly, and how worried should you be? In reality, most Campylobacter infections are associated with eating raw, undercooked poultry or from the contamination of other foods by these foods, according to the CDC. But sometimes people can get infected through contact with the feces of a dog or a cat—or in this case, it seems, puppies from certain pet stores, per the health agency. (Related: Puppy Pilates Might Be the Cutest Workout Trend You've Ever Seen)

Symptoms of the infection typically begin to show up two to five days after exposure to the bacteria, according to the CDC. Signs of the illness are very similar to those associated with food poisoning: diarrhea (which can occasionally be bloody), nausea, vomiting, fever, and stomach cramps, per the agency. Some people, however, don't experience any symptoms at all. And while the illness usually lasts only a week, people with weakened immune systems—particularly those with blood disorders, AIDS, or people receiving certain kinds of chemotherapy—can "occasionally" see the illness spread into their bloodstream, which can cause a potentially life-threatening infection, the CDC cautions.

So far, the CDC hasn't reported any deaths from this outbreak. The agency says that most people recover without the need for antibiotics or other medical interventions.

As of right now, the CDC says it hasn't found the originating source of the outbreak or a single, common supplier of the puppies associated with the reported illnesses. Until it finds out more information, the agency is urging people to thoroughly wash their hands after touching any puppy or dog, handling their food, and/or cleaning up after them (even if the pup appears to be healthy and clean). The CDC also suggests not letting puppies lick around your mouth and face or near open wounds and areas with broken skin. And if you're thinking of bringing a little floofball home for the holidays from your local pet store, make sure you take them to the vet for a checkup just to be safe.

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