Owner warns of deadly dog fungus

Springfield couple who run area dog business lose their family pet.

Wade Rice’s dog, Chase, loved nothing more than spending time in the water. But that passion may have also cost the dog his life.

“There were no red flags at the beginning, and all of a sudden when the red flags appeared, it was too late,” said Rice, of Springfield. “Something that he loved so much eventually killed him.”

The 2-year-old golden retriever contracted a fungal infection known as blastomycosis. The dog likely inhaled spores during his time at a waterhole at Buck Creek State Park. Within two weeks of diagnosing the disorder, Rice said Chase was dead.

“I watched him take his last breath,” Rice said. “By no means did we think a healthy golden retriever, that something like this would strike him so quickly.”

The fungus grows in moist soil or vegetation, and mostly in shaded areas. Most prevalent in the summer and fall, the fungal infection can cause skin irritations, eye irritations and blindness. Once it enters the lungs, the spores multiply into large pods that can overwhelm the lungs and stop breathing, said Dr. Alicia Griffin, a veterinarian at Northside Veterinary Clinic in Springfield.

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“It’s one of those region-specific diseases,” Griffin said. “It’s such a severe disease and can progress so quickly that when an owner does experience this, it is very, very difficult to treat.”

Antibiotics combat the infection, and it can take several months to treat. However, the symptoms— fatigue, rash, disinterest in food— are so common with other ailments that often owners don’t realize their pet has it. Without treatment, it is fatal. Griffin said it’s important for owners to give their vets a full history during a check-up, including time spent by the water, for an accurate diagnosis.

It’s a rare disorder— Northside has treated three known cases and three suspected cases this year. Hunting dogs and those that spend a lot of time by the water are most susceptible. Avoiding areas where fungus is common can help lessen the likelihood of contracting it, Griffin said, but owners shouldn’t be afraid of letting their dogs near the water.

Rice, who runs the “Sit, Stay and Play Dog Park” in Huber Heights with his wife, said he’d never heard of the infection before, and hopes other owners will keep a watchful eye.

“If I can help just anyone see the signs … it’s worth it,” he said.

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