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Village family’s pet diagnosed with blastomycosis

Thursday, September 11, 2014

There have been reports of at least one family pet in the village being diagnosed in recent weeks with a serious disease brought on by exposure to a fungus.

Blastomycosis is a fungal infection that is caused by an organism called Blastomyces dermatitidis, according to the PetMD website.

It is believed that the local stricken dog received its diagnosis at the University of Illinois School of Veterinary Medicine.

Dr. Larry Baker, a Decatur veterinarian who lives in Forsyth, said it’s difficult for pet owners to figure out what’s happening to their pets when they come down with this particular ailment.

“It’s picked up from fungal spores that the dog breathes in,” Baker said. “It causes severe pneumonia. We probably lose about 50 percent of the dogs that get it because it’s diagnosed so late.”

So, getting your dog into see the doctor is crucial. Baker said if you notice that your dog is coughing or having difficulty breathing, you should get them in right away because those are the first symptoms.

“The first three or four days are crucial,” Baker said. “If they make it past that, they will usually survive.”

Baker said the fungus is often found around creeks and ponds, and overturned soil is a common cause. So, what precautions can pet owners take?

“How can you keep a dog away from a pond or overturned dirt?” Baker asked. “It’s not common enough to take any real precautions; there’s no vaccination for it.”

Baker said it’s obviously a serious disease, but said he sees maybe six cases a year in his office. Treatment, he added, calls for an anti-fungal drug given every day for several months. And, he said, there is a chance for recurrence. The disease can affect sight, causing blindness and can harm the dog’s brain, Baker said.

The disease is seen in both dogs and cats, but mostly affects large-breed, male dogs, according to PetMD.

Baker said it seems to him that he sees the disease usually in Labrador Retrievers, but he said maybe that’s because they love the water so much. It is not very common in humans and is not typically contagious from pets to people or to other animals, Baker said.

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