Every year, the Nor-West Animal Clinic here sees cases of blastomycosis. But in 2000, the disease has been on the rise
“It’s nasty. It turns the lungs into solid masses, it’s awful,” said Dr. Chris Cannon of the Nor-West Animal Clinic. “There seems to be a little more than in previous years.”
The disease typically affects about seven to 10 animals annually in the area but this year, 15 to 20 affected have been brought into the clinic.
The blastomycosis spores can lay dormant in the soil for years but react in highly-organic material. Once exposed to the body temperatures of an animal, the bacteria takes a form similar to a yeast, spreading throughout the animal’s body.
The spores either can be inhaled by the dogs or get into open wounds and spread in the bloodstream to affect the eyes, joints, and skin. The bacteria quickly take over the body of a pet dog and, if untreated, can be deadly.
“There’s almost ’flu-like symptoms in a dog and they don’t get the ’flu,” noted Dr. Cannon. “There’s intermittent lameness, swollen joints, sore eyes, a cough, and draining sores.”
Most of the dogs that have fallen ill with the disease have been at the lake or in rural areas where there is more black, heavily-organic soils. Only one dog within town has fallen ill.
The animals can be in contact with the spores months before they are obviously ill. But once the symptoms are evident, they can die within seven to 11 days.
“It takes months to come up. The cases we’re getting now we’re assuming were exposed in April or June,” said Dr. Cannon.
Once diagnosed, there is a treatment to fight blastomycosis. A drug called itraconazole is often effective but is quite costly.
“We used to have a 65 percent success rate. Now we’re talking 85 percent but medication is the big expense,” admitted Dr. Cannon.
One dog currently being treated at the clinic is receiving two capsules a day for about six months at a cost of $4.50 a pill. In severe cases, dogs can be placed on intravenous for one to three weeks.
Blastomycosis is generally not contagious and although they can get it, the disease is not lethal for humans.
This year’s increase in blastomycosis may be due to the warm, humid weather conditions.