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By Michael Christianson
With the snow melting for hopefully the last time our minds are turning to spring and warmer weather, but rising temperatures bring back things for you and your pets to be cautious of, like blastomycosis and ticks carrying Lyme disease.
Blastomycosis or blasto as it is commonly known is a fungal infection cause by the organism Blastomyces dermatitidis.
Although blasto is more common in Kenora and Thunder Bay many veterinarians in Dryden see cases from around the region.
Dr. Greg Springett at Dryden Veterinary Services says that animals can show symptoms well after they have contracted the infection.
“Blasto unfortunately it can hibernate for a long period of time so we actually do see quite a large number of animals in the winter as well that would have contracted it in the fall but don’t start showing symptoms until the winter, that’s always concerning and confusing for people as well, you wouldn’t be thinking about blasto in the middle of winter yet we see quite a few cases and it’s because they’ve picked it up and their bodies have been keeping it at bay or for whatever reason its relatively dormant until it sets off; it’s not always that case sometimes they can pick it up and start showing symptoms fairly soon after being exposed and other times up to six months or so afterwards before they start showing symptoms.”
Springett says to monitor your pet if you are concerned they may have contracted blasto. Common signs are that the animal is not eating, tired, losing weight as well as coughing, Springett says a cough in this area means a lot more than in other regions. Typical symptomatic coughs are a dry choking non-productive cough.
For Charlie Renner, a former Dryden resident, he witnessed first hand what blasto can do to a beloved family pet.
“When Archer first got sick we didn’t think anything of it,” said Renner. “We were in Dryden at the time visiting friends, he just seemed more tired than normal and stopped eating. We waited a day and then we thought something was up and in the morning we took him to the vet. The vet in Dryden was great, he ran some tests and thought it could be a viral infection but brought up that there is a small chance it could be blasto.”
Archer was taken to Dr. Springett who ran many tests and spent a lot of time with Renner and his girlfriend before determining it was blasto.
“At this point I wasn’t extremely concerned because I figured we caught it early and could be treated. The medication was expensive but when we got back to Thunder Bay we went to the vet there and started him on the medication,” said Renner. “Now we became super concerned, Archer wasn’t eating or drinking and we had to feed him by tube and it was really hard. I spent hours on the internet reading into everything I could about the disease, the main concern was that you don’t want it to get into the central nervous system, so far there was no signs…then we saw the first sign when he didn’t move his foot properly.”
Renner says it was downhill from there. At that time it was confirmed to be blastomycosis and he says Archer was gone mentally, the hardest time for him and his girlfriend. The dog needed to be carried, held up and wasn’t responding. After some new more extreme and expensive drugs Archer started to improve, wagging his tail and greeting his family when they got home. Then one day when Renner was out he received a call that Archer was having a seizure, by the time he got home he had already passed on.
“It was probably the worst day, I can’t really describe how sad we were. He was everything to me and Erika and it was such a shock. He was the best dog I could have ever imagined and his life ended way too soon.”