Woman with third-degree burns believes her dog saved her life by 'sniffing out' sepsis

·4-min read

A woman believes her dog saved her life by 'sniffing out' sepsis after she developed the life-threatening condition from third-degree burns due to a bad reaction to hair dye.

Levi Carter, 22, booked herself into a hair salon in February 2018 to get her hair professionally bleached to go from brunette to blonde. 

Within minutes of the peroxide bleach being applied, she claims her scalp started to burn and it was 'smoking' - before the stylist quickly washed it off. 

That evening her head began to bleed and she was referred to Nottingham Hospital's burns unit where she was treated for third-degree burns.

The burns became more painful and Levi returned to hospital after she believed her Yorkshire terrier - called Chico - 'sensed' her infection.

The pooch would leave her scalp along and refused to settle - sniffing around the wounds on her head.

The support worker was diagnosed with sepsis and was treated 'just in time' - however she has been left with permanent bald spots nearly three years later.

Levi is hoping to warn others around the importance of doing a patch test before using hair dye.

Levi, from Lincolnshire, said: "The whole thing has been incredibly traumatic. 

"I've been left with huge bald patches and will need surgery to try and cover them.

"I only went back into the hospital because my dog wouldn't leave me alone - he must have smelt the infection.

"If I left it any longer then who knows what would have happened - I might not be here.

"Chico saved my life."

Levi, who works as a support worker for adults with learning disabilities, would regularly dye her hair at home. 

When she wanted a dramatic change from brunette to blonde, Levi booked herself in a salon - which has since closed down - to get it professionally done in February 2018.

After the stylist had applied the peroxide hair bleach all over her head, Levi felt a 'burning sensation' and instantly knew something wasn't right.

She said: "After bleaching it they wrapped my head in cling film and it started to hurt.

"It was really painful and my head actually started smoking.

"We went straight to the sinks and ran my head under a cold tap for about 20 minutes.


"They felt really bad and offered to dye a different colour and I ended up leaving with it bright red."

The cut and colour cost Levi £40 - the salon knocked the price down from the original £60.

That evening she noticed her head starting to bleed so she called 111 who advised her to go to A&E.

Levi was eventually referred to Nottingham Hospital's burns unit where she was treated for third-degree burns on her scalp. 

She said: "I went out with some friends that night but I was in a lot of pain.

"It turned out there was still peroxide on my scalp and it ended up burning my head.

"I was given some antibiotics and hoped it would start to clear up."

Over the next four weeks, the burns on Levi's head continued to 'weep' and become more painful.

She was alerted to the issue by her pet pooch Chico who she believes could 'smell' an infection developing. 

When Levi noticed the smell herself - and Chico refused to leave her alone - she went back to hospital where she was admitted and treated for the life-threatening infection sepsis.

"Chico wouldn't leave me alone and he could smell something wasn't right,' Levi explained.

"Eventually I started to smell the wounds so I went back to hospital. 

"The doctors said they caught it before it got too serious and I was kept on a drip for three days."

Although Levi's burns began to heal the damage to her hair follicles was so severe she has been left with several bald patches.

In August 2019 Levi underwent a scalp reduction surgery to stretch the skin on her head and cover the missing hair.

Unfortunately the operation didn't take and she's need to undergo more surgery to try and repair the bald spots. 

She said: "It's left me incredibly self-conscious and I struggled for a long time.

"I haven't been able to go into a hairdressers again so I dye my hair at home.

"I need more surgery and doctors are planning to inflate balloons under the skin on my scalp because the first operation didn't work.

"It should stretch it enough so they bring it together and hopefully close the bald spots. 

"It's so important to do a patch test first because you have no idea how your skin is going to react. 

"I wish I'd done that in the first place and maybe I wouldn't have lost my hair.

"I'm just thankful my dog made me act on it - otherwise who knows where I'd be and if I'd even be here today."