Several cases of fungal infection have affected dogs in Swift Current
Blastomycosis is a systemic fungal infection caused by Blastomyces dermatitidis. In addition to being found in the Mississippi, Missouri, and Ohio River Valleys, it has also been found in southern Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec. Several cases have been diagnosed in Swift Current.
Since the fungus thrives in richly organic soil adjacent to water, it is suspected that the local cases have been infected near the Swift Current Creek. This disease is usually seen in young, male, large breed sporting dogs due to their increased exposure to potentially contaminated areas. However, any breed, sex or age of dog can be infected if exposed to the fungal spores. Cats and humans can also be infected, but seem to be less susceptible to infection compared with dogs.
Direct transmission from an infected animal to another animal or human is unlikely, although local infection can occur if bitten by an infected animal.
Infection usually begins in the lungs through inhalation of the microscopic spores. It then spreads to other organs in the body through the blood. Infection can also occur due to contamination of an open wound with spores from the environment.
Symptoms are varied and may include coughing, difficulty breathing, exercise intolerance, fever, poor appetite, weight loss, lethargy, and skin or eye lesions. However, these symptoms are not specific to this disease and can occur in a large number of other diseases or ailments. A number of tests are required to confirm the diagnosis. They include blood tests, chest x-rays, a specialized test looking at fluid recovered from the lung and/or a specialized urine test.
Although blastomycosis can be treated, it may be fatal in advanced cases. Treatment requires a minimum of four months of oral antifungal medication, in addition to regular blood tests to check for liver problems that can occur with the use of this medication. Regular chest x-rays are also required to monitor the pet’s response to treatment. Prognosis for recovery is dependent on the organs involved and the ability to treat the infection for a long enough duration. Relapse is possible in 20 per cent of dogs once the treatment has stopped.
Unfortunately, at this time, there is no vaccine to prevent this disease. Therefore, the best method of prevention is to avoid potentially contaminated areas. Given that there are no reliable ways to identify or remove the fungus from the soil, it can only be recommended to avoid lakes and creeks in areas where the disease is known to occur.
Since there have been several confirmed cases in Swift Current, it is best to not allow your pets to play in or near the Swift Current Creek or any other bodies of water in the Swift Current area.