A dog in Campbell County died last week of necrotizing fasciitis, also known as flesh-eating bacteria.
The dog, a 6-year-old Great Dane named Nikita, had been bitten by a feral cat that got into Dana and Christine Williams’ yard.
Cases of flesh-eating bacteria in animals is extremely rare, said Dr. Darren Lynde, a veterinarian at Animal Medical Center.
“It’s beyond random. I’ve done this for 20 years, and never seen this particular situation and probably never will again,” said Lynde, who was one of several vets who tried to help Nikita at the center. “Most cats and dogs just clear the infection on their own.”
While Nikita was bitten by a feral cat, Lynde said most likely the infection came from some other source besides the cat.
“It’s extremely rare for it to go from animal to animal, or animal to person,” Lynde said. “It’s incredibly rare but it has been shown it can go animal to animal.”
Three human cases of flesh-eating bacteria were confirmed by Campbell County Memorial Hospital last Friday. Lynde said those cases were not related to Nikita’s infection.
“It’s random and incredibly unfortunate coincidence” that this case occurred during the same time as human cases were reported, Lynde said. “It tends to cause a lot of ‘scare your socks off stuff’ and it’s not warranted. ... My dog sleeps with my kids and we’re all fine with that.”
He said what most likely happened was the staphylococcus A bacteria that caused the infection was present on the dog’s body or in the dirt. The cat bite allowed the bacteria to get into the bloodstream, where it began to eat away at Nikita’s flesh.
“Two weeks ago Monday, I came home from work and I heard this cat screaming,” said Christine Williams.
Her five dogs, including Nikita, were playing with a feral cat like it was a toy, she said.
“I knew it could have rabies and I didn’t want the cat to suffer,” she said. When she went to get her rifle to put the cat out of its misery, she heard one of the dogs yip as though it had been bitten. When she examined the dogs, she couldn’t find any cuts.
But the next day, Nikita began to limp.
“By that night, she could hardly walk on that foot,” Williams said.
Nikita’s leg than began to swell to four times its normal size. They tried to ice her leg to help the swelling.
But then Nikita opened a wound by licking. That wound spread to about six or seven inches and began to spurt blood. The Williams immediately took her to the Animal Medical Center.
By Friday, the wound was spreading rapidly down Nikita’s leg.
“You could see the skin, it was falling off of her,” Williams said. “By Monday night, she had meat hanging from her chest.”
“It’s like every other infection as far as it presents itself,” Lynde said. “What starts to happen is you start getting it where it aggressively moves and takes over more tissue in the dog.”
When the wound didn’t spread Tuesday, there was hope the drugs the veterinarians were using had started to work. Yet the bacteria had moved inside and had begun to eat away at Nikita’s insides.
Her kidney’s began to fail and Lynde told the Williams there was no chance for Nikita after that. They made the tough decision to put her down, 11 days after she suffered the cat bite.
“These dogs are my children,” Williams said.