Minor injury leads to near-fatal infection for Leia
A cherished crossbreed from Cardiff is the latest entrant to PDSA’s Pet Survivor competition after contracting deadly tetanus, following a seemingly trivial injury.
Five-year-old Leia was first brought in to PDSA’s Pet Hospital in Trident Park after she split her nail during a walk but in the days that followed, her health rapidly deteriorated.
Owner Natalia Dias (37) from Cathays, explains: “A couple of days after Leia split her nail, her face started to swell up. At first we thought it was an allergic reaction as Leia has suffered with skin conditions in the past but within 24 hours, her condition had taken a turn for the worse – she had a seizure and couldn’t stand or walk. I rushed her straight back to PDSA where vets admitted her for tests.”
Leia was examined and vets found that her head was swollen, her limbs were rigid and her eyes were wide: sinister symptoms of the potentially fatal yet very rare disease, tetanus.
Karen Jones, Vet Nurse Team Leader at PDSA’s Pet Hospital in Cardiff, said: “The tetanus chlostridium bacteria lives in the environment and can get into the systems of both pets and humans through open wounds. Leia’s nail injury provided the perfect chance for the bacteria to enter her bloodstream. By the time the symptoms had manifested themselves, Leia was dangerously ill.
“Emergency treatment started - and Leia was put on IV fluids and antibiotics. But by the following morning, her condition had worsened significantly. It was a race against time to get our hands on a Tetanus anti toxin, which, owing to the rarity of the condition, we didn’t stock in our dispensary but we were lucky – a local private vet had one in stock.”
Vets gave Leia a very bleak prognosis as the anti toxin can cause serious side effects. But without the treatment, Leia’s life would have been tragically cut short.
Natalia continues: “I was still in shock. One minute, she had a sore paw and the next, she was desperately ill and I was facing the possibility of having to put her to sleep. It was terrifying and so upsetting but I wanted to give Leia every chance to survive, although it was so scary to think that the medicine the vets would give to try and save her could make her worse, or even kill her.”
Once the anti toxin was administered, Leia was monitored around the clock by PDSA vets and kept on the IV fluids and antibiotics to help her fight the bacteria. Leia was also given medicine to help relax her muscles.
As well as the drugs to control Leia’s symptoms and ease her pain, the condition also requires intensive nursing in a very specific manner. Vet Nurse Karen explains: “Tetenus patients need to be in a dark, stimulus-free environment to keep their body and brain relaxed so we created a special kennel with the conditions that would best aid her recovery.”
After 8 days, Leia was finally allowed to return home where she continued her recovery, under the watchful eye of Natalia. She concludes: “Leia is my baby – she is such a beautiful soul and we went through hell during that week. I visited her every day in hospital and helped turn her and hand feed her when she needed intensive nursing. I will be eternally grateful to PDSA for all they did for Leia and in my mind, she is a true Pet Survivor!
Pet owners wishing to nominate their pet can enter online at www.pdsa.org.uk/petsurvivor. The PDSA Pet Survivor Awards are open to any owner whose pet has been treated in the UK by a vet between 1 August 2014 and 1 August 2015. Entries need to be received by midnight on Sunday 4 October 2015.
A panel of judges will then shortlist a small group of miracle pets to take part in a public vote, with the winner announced at the end of the year. The winner will be declared PDSA Pet Survivor 2015 and will win a year’s PDSA pet insurance.