Sunday, November 26, 2006


As far as we know, Teddy contacted blastomycosis sometime in September or October. In early October, Ted began coughing and his breathing was noticeably more labored. His initial diagnosis was kennel cough, though when his breathing got worse and he started coughing up blood, Sarah immediately rushed him back to the vet for a second opinion.
Understanding the love between danes and their humans, I was worried for both Ted and Sarah, and one of my greatest fears is blastomycosis. A couple of years ago we had a friend on the Gunflint Trail that lost two chocolate labs to the disease, after a lengthy, painful, and expensive treatment. My second cousin's spaniel was successfully treated for blasto, though he still may relapse. I know of two other cases in our immediate area, one being a human infection (successful treatment) and the other being a canine (fatal case). Because of the threat of blasto, Sarah asked her vet if that could be the cause of her dog's illness, but he assured her that it was definately not, and diagnosed Ted with pneumonia.
In that first week, Ted got noticeably weaker and lost quite a bit of weight. His fever was at 105 degrees, and not responding to the antibiotics at all. He refused to eat, and would only drink tiny amounts of water. His breathing was deep and seemed painful, his whole body laboring for each breath. Desperate, Sarah again drove him 150 miles to Duluth. At this point she took him to another vet whom she had dealt with before, and when she got home, sent me an email; "Teddy does have blasto." They began treatment right away, but I think poor Teddy was so weak from the disease and the fever and so dehydrated already that his immune system just couldn't handle the medications. Most blasto treatments involve medicine that is toxic to the liver and/or kidneys, and in the last days of his life, Ted's body was struggling to handle the disease and the medications both. At the end, he was succumbing to complete liver failure.
I went to see Ted maybe a week before he died, after he'd started medication. Weak and shaky, he wagged his tail when I walked in, and struggled off his futon to greet me. I was absolutely shocked at the amount of weight he'd lost, and how this healthy, robust puppy had changed in only a week or so to a dog that looked aged and helpless. He could barely draw breath, and I could hear his lungs rattling even when he was resting. But he wandered outside with Sarah and I and the rottweilers and drank some water, and I started to think that maybe he would make it. He heard Savi whining in my truck and perked up his big floppy ears, and I know he was anticipating playing with his little buddy again. I hugged him and told him he was a good, strong boy, and then I walked back down the driveway to my truck and hugged my own puppy for a very long time. I never saw Teddy again.
Blastomycosis is a horrible, painful disease. It's caused by a fungus in the soil, and dogs contact it by inhaling the mold spores. One of the insidious things about blasto is that it's so often mis-diagnosed (as in Ted's case). If the infection is recognized early on, treatment has a chance of working, but we have to be very alert to behavioral and physical changes in our puppies. We have to be aware of blasto, and know that it exists in our area. We have to force our vets to consider it, even though the diagnosis may be expensive and difficult. There is a great wealth of information on blasto online, and it's possible to find out if there have been reported cases in your geographic region. For example, the Minnesota Department Of Health's blastomycosis page has maps of cases by county of residence AND county of exposure. If you check these out, notice that St. Louis County (including Duluth), has the second highest number of cases on both maps. Savi and I live in Cook County, and Duluth is the closest big city to us. It's scary.
If you are concerned about blasto, simply type in "blastomycosis in dogs" on any search engine. Or visit Canis Major's page on blasto for a easy-to-understand summary. And get to know your dog, body and mind, so you can spot any changes. It may save his/her life.


  1. Anonymous said...
    Let me say first of all I amsorry about your Dane. A short lived life for a beautiful pet is very painful.
    I have a Doberman Pinscher, Zeus, who right now is battling this deadly blasto. He also is a very big part of my life. My best friend, fishing buddy, riding buddy, my only friend really. We just started treatment today. We had to wait a week after his vet visit to start and I dont know how long Zeus has had blasto. He is having a very hard time breathing as I type this. The vet also said he might loose his sight in his left eye.
    I am very sorry for your lose. I just pray Zeus does not has the same fate as Savage.
    Anonymous said...
    I am so sorry for your loss as my husband and I currently are owned by two danes. Recently our harlequin, Dakota, spent a night at the vet with lethargy, a 105.5 temp, and dehydration. Diagnosis, unknown. She was treated for HGE, but being an ex-vet tech I began searching for more. Three days home from the doc and now she won't put weight on a hind leg. I remembered seeing a few small sores on her skin, but they healed-weeks ago-now I am worried about blasto. Back to the vet on Monday. Keep me in your thoughts, Dakota is like our daughter. And your baby is beautiful!
    Lucinda, TN

Post a Comment