Cases of rare, deadly flesh-eating disease spike in Nanaimo & Oceanside dogs | NanaimoNewsNOW

“It’s rapid, one of our cases was literally getting worse in front of our eyes. One case came in and it only had a little swelling about [the size of a golf ball]the next day it was back and the whole leg was swollen.”

Two dogs in Nanaimo and one in Parksville were confirmed as necrotizing fasciitis cases with all three being put down.

Another two in Qualicum Beach are suspected to have succumbed to the disease with lab results still pending.

Details of the sixth case on the Island are unknown as the owners have not consented to their information being released.

Incidents began showing up to Daniel in October, with the most recent one coming in mid-April and it’s not known if the six are linked in any way.

The bacteria, streptococcus canis, will be living on a surface, including an animal’s skin, but is largely harmless until it has the opportunity to enter under the skin.

It is not considered contagious in the same manner as a virus, but a small sample size means little is known about how the bacteria is traveling and why it becomes so serious, so quickly in some animals.

“We don’t exactly know under what exact conditions it allows it to do that because a lot of dogs will have strep canis but not get necrotizing faciitis,” Daniel said. “There’s still a lot of un-answered questions.”

Once in the body, time is of the essence.

Swelling of the affected area changes by the hour and antibiotics do little to stop the spread. Daniel said a majority of dogs will either have the limb amputated or be euthanized within 24 to 48 hours of showing symptoms.

“If you catch it early enough and you treat it…with aggressive surgery, you can potentially save them. Cases I know that have been successful, generally if it happens on a limb, the limb is amputated.”

The swelling is typically discolored and squishy and leaves an imprint when pushed on.

It is also incredibly painful for the animal.

“They might be super, super sore and it’s this tiny swelling and you can’t make heads or tails why they’re as sore as they are,” Daniel said. “Sometimes they’ll come in completely non-weight bearing, acting like their leg is broken and it’s the swelling.”

Daniel admitted it’s a tough conversation for vets and dog owners to have, discussing amputation or euthanasia for what looks to be a minor injury.

A delay in actually identifying the disease can often be fatal, so surgeons are having to remove limbs before necrotizing fasciitis is confirmed.

But it’s the spread of swelling which often forces their hand.

“With the last couple of cases we drew a line where the swelling ended and within two hours you could see it had progressed past the line.”

Daniel is helping lead an effort to not only study recent cases but track future ones.

Future samples of suspected cases will be sent to doctors who specialize in the disease and a survey is being developed for past cases to try and determine any common links.

Daniel said they are also be reaching out to Island vets to share their research in a bid to find more cases or help them detect future ones faster.

Other veterinarians around the world are also making efforts to combat the infection, with development of a medicinal treatment called SertaSil proving effective in treating some wounds.

The bacteria in dogs carries a very low risk to humans, with Daniel saying only someone severely immunocompromised would be even remotely vulnerable to this specific strain.

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