Fungal Infection (Blastomycosis) in Dogs
This terrible disease has killed one of my dogs, and over a hundred on Manitoulin Island over the last few years. Poor Popeye was only sick a couple of weeks before he died. Not long enough for the medication to start working. Symptoms can include coughing, lesions and skin irritations, it sometime lodges in the eyes and blindness can result.
Although cross contamination between humans and other animals is small, humans have to be careful in areas that might contain the fungus as it can be a death sentence to people as well.
Treatment is generally done at home, using oral dosages of an antifungal medication. The medication is relatively expensive and must be administered for a minimum of 60 days, or one month after all signs of blastomycosis have disappeared. Dogs with severe difficulty breathing (a condition known as dyspnea) may require an supplemental oxygen until lung condition has improved.
In severely prolonged infections, or when medication has not cured the infection, surgery may be necessary in order to remove part of an abscessed lobe in damaged lungs.
Living and Management
Continue to give the necessary antifungal medication regularly and limit the dog’s physical activities — this will help it avoid straining its lungs. A high-quality diet to stimulate the dog’s appetite is also encouraged. Chest X-rays can help determine the duration of and response to treatment, and reveal any permanent changes in the lungs that may have resulted from the treatment.
Although the disease is only spread from animals to people through bite wounds, humans may have been exposed to the Blastomyces organism at the same time as pets and should inform their physician if they have breathing problems or skin lesions, which are both good indicators of blastomycosis.
This condition often is acquired in environments where decaying wood is found: farms, forests, wooded areas, camps, hunting areas. Decay of other organic material is also conducive to its growth in soil, especially when the soil is not exposed to sunlight and remains damp all the time.
Conversely, the spores may be more likely to go airborne during dry weather, when the contaminated dust is lighter. It is not easy to predict exactly where the Blastomyces organism may be growing, and is thus difficult to avoid entirely.
The only useful recommendation that can be given is to avoid lakes and streams where risk of exposure is greatest. This is, admittedly, an impractical suggestion for most. If you do live or spend time in these types of geographic areas, you may practicably be able to avoid the dense, dark areas where the fungus would thrive, reducing your pet’s risk of exposure. As well, if your dog’s immune system is already compromised, you will not want to include it in trips to high risk areas.
This condition is only rarely transmittable from animal to animal, or from animal to human. In the event that transmission does occur, it is when the animal has an open and draining wound, and it comes into contact with an open wound on the human, or the discharge from the animal’s wound gets into the humans eye. Taking care to avoid these circumstances when caring for your dog will be sufficient prevention.