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What is Blastomycosis?

How does a dog get Blastomycosis?

What are the symptoms of Blastomycosis?

How is Blastomycosis diagnosed?

How is Blastomycosis treated?

How can Blastomycosis be prevented?

Can a relapse of Blastomycosis occur?

What is the future of Blastomycosis?


What is Blastomycosis?

Blastomycosis is a fungal disease caused by inhaling the spores produced by the fungus Blastomyces dermatitidis.  B. dermatitidis grows as a mold in soils, near waterways such as lakes, streams, creeks, beaver homes, and high-risk areas endemic areas.  One of those areas is Eagle River, WI in Vilas County following a 15-year study.

Blastomycosis can also affect humans as well.   The State of Wisconsin Department of Health Services released a statement on Blastomycosis on September 12, 2008 to be on the watch for Blastomycosis.  (back to top)

How does a dog get Blastomycosis?

When the ground (soil) where the organism lives is disturbed the infectious spores are released into the air.  The dog breathes it in where it then travels to the lungs and the infection begins.   Remember that after the organism multiplies, it begins its journey away from the lungs or wound to the vascular system or lymph nodes.  To learn more about it read this article, and from the CDC (Center for Disease Control).

One factor that greatly increases the chances of getting Blastomycosis is where you live, the activities you do with your dog(s), and if your pet vacationed near a lake or visited an area that is considered high-risk. 

Northern Wisconsin is one of the areas where the soil has the right conditions and the right moisture for the organism to grow and produce spores.  It has also been reported that the lower water levels in the previous years may also be a factor.  That is why it is so hard to isolate the disease.  (back to top)

What are the symptoms of Blastomycosis?

Blastomycosis is a chronic infection, and dogs are usually sick for several weeks before the diagnosis is made.  Sometimes it can be mistaken for another illness like pneumonia. Be persistent in seeking a definitive cause.  This can be your best defense for revealing this disease. 

That is why it’s SO IMPORTANT to learn and recognize the warning signs of Blasto.  If you are unsure, ask your vet because it’s not something you want to ‘wait’ and see if it gets better.  Waiting can greatly decrease your dog’s chances of survival.  Click here to see the images of Blasto.  A high percentage of dogs get Blasto in the lungs where it can show up first.  The symptoms are almost identical as in humans as well.  Just like any human disease too, early detection is crucial. 

  • Symptoms of lung infection

  • lung lesions along with a dry, harsh lung sound (chest x-rays)

  • Persistent cough (may be bloody or yellow)

  • Shortness of breath-difficulty breathing

  • Decreased stamina

  • General symptoms

  • Fever, flu-like symptoms (pneumonia)

  • Pain

  • Loss of appetite

  • Weight loss

  • Vomiting

  • Depression

  • Decreased activity

  • Reluctant to walk

  • Skin-sores or abscess (not healing)

  • Bones-limping or drainage (on paw, between digits, underneath)

  • Lymph glands-swelling

  • Respiratory symptoms, fungal pneumonia

  • Eye infection, sudden blindness

  • CNS (Central Nervous System) symptoms: twitches, stumbled walk, Loss of coordination – balance (back to top)

How is Blastomycosis diagnosed?

Blasto is usually diagnosed by testing specimens taken from the lungs, trach wash, chest x-ray, doing a biopsy of the skin, lymph nodes, or bone.  The chest x-ray will show a “snowstorm” pattern when means that the fungus is growing as a budding yeast.  Blood and urine tests also assist in diagnosis of Blasto by detecting breakdown products of the fungus, called “Antigens.”   Ask your vet about he MiraVista Diagnostics Antigen test.  A simple blood test will check for antibodies to Blasto as well.  (back to top)

How is Blastomycosis treated? 

It is treated as long as a diagnosis is made before the dog becomes severely ill.  In reality, treating Blastomycosis is difficult, and that’s why early detection is so crucial!   The choice of treatment is with antifungal medication.  Below are the most commonly drugs used:

  • Itraconazole (Sporanox)

  • Amphoterericin-B 

  • Itraconazole (Sporanox) suspension

  • Ketoconazole (Nizoral)

  • Fluconazole (Di flucan)

  • Posaconazole

  • Voriconazole

  • Prednisone

In the past, Amphotericin-B was the only known medication useful against Blastomycosis and the other systemic fungal organisms. It was given intravenously and with care to keep the dose from harming the kidneys.  For life-threatening Blastomycosis, Amphotericin B (Amp B) is the treatment of choice.  (back to top)

How can Blasto be prevented?

Currently, there is no “vaccine” in guarding against getting Blastomycosis.  Because it’s hard to isolate, it’s often very difficult to figure out where the source of the infection came from.   Since the disease can’t be spread from animal to animal, it can only come from inhaling the spores. 

You know the areas where your dog plays just be aware of them. 

In endemic regions, it may not be possible to completely avoid exposure to the fungus.  Limiting the amount of time a dog spends in the woods especially near water may reduce the incidences. 

Giving the vet a thorough history of your dog’s daily surroundings, vacations, traveling within the past 6 months, swimming an hunting locations, if you did any remodeling, new construction, landscaping, hiking will help give the vet get a clear picture of the events that led up to the illness.

Knowing if Blastomycosis had occurred in your area, recognizing the symptoms, and seeking prompt veterinary services are some of the best defenses attacking the disease.  (back to top)

Can a relapse of Blastomycosis occur?

Yes, relapse can occur.  As in Brando’s case it came back one year later.  Remember that every case of Blastomycosis is different. 

Factors that relapse may occur may be if medication is not taken properly, stopped, if the dosage amount is not accurate or even if the dog is not absorbing it from the stomach.   Follow-up check-ups with the veterinarian during and after treatment has ended are needed to check for treatment failure or relapse.  Keeping the lines of communication open is very important and working together as a team can build the bridge and bring the disease to a close.  (back to top)

What is the future for Blastomycosis treatment?

There is no vaccine for Blastomycosis at the present time.  With new medications, tests, and education there is a ray of light that gives hope that together we can conquer this disease.    

I encourage all family members to be involved with your pet’s health.  What one family may not see the other one may.  Ask your vet questions if you notice any of the symptoms.    Remember, there’s no such thing bad question, just a question we forgot to ask.   I don’t want anybody to ever say to themselves, “should of, could of, or would of."  

I’m hoping that the young adults growing up will enter college with all tools necessary to become competent and dedicated to their field of study.   Among us could be the next vet, scientist, doctor to find and develop a vaccine for Blastomycosis.  (back to top)



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