Coheed & Cambria
Dirtbike’s story began with a respiratory infection. She ran a fever for a week or so, and developed trouble breathing, nasal discharge, and lost weight. We also noticed a gray sore on her back, about the size of a dime. The hair around it fell out, and it would not heal. She also had a non-productive cough.
We treated her at home with broad-spectrum antibiotics, available at most farm stores. After a week, she showed no improvement and began to grow more listless. We took her to her new vet, Darren Dell, DVM. He examined her briefly, and said that it was likely one of two things: Heartworms or Blastomycosis. He took her off and ran a couple of tests.
When he returned, he said that she was negative for heartworms, and we breathed a sigh of relief. We knew that heartworm treatment was very hard on an animal, and weren’t sure we could even afford it. He explained that he had done a slide test from the sore on her back, and it was positive for Blastomycosis.
We were still pretty optimistic, thinking it couldn’t be nearly as serious as heartworms. We were quite mistaken. He explained that Blasto was a fungal infection that developed from the inhalation of Blastomycosis spores that were found mostly in the ground, on wet soil, wood debris, etc. He also said that although it was not terribly uncommon, it could be very expensive to treat, as the first-line treatment was an antifungal called Sporanox, or Itraconazole. He informed us of a compounding pharmacy that could greatly reduce the cost, but that she may need daily treatment for up to a year.
He also explained that her survival was not guaranteed, she could lose her sight, and that she could easily relapse. We decided to try the treatment, and received her prescription Itraconazole 150 mg. from Pet Health Pharmacy the next day.
The first few doses did not seem to affect her adversely, and we were pretty confident that she would be herself in no time. After about a week, we were ready to let her go. Her condition had declined rapidly, her appetite was gone, she could barely breathe, and every day she seemed closer to death.
We learned that the Itraconazole was not as effective without food, and she was completely anorexic. We were force-feeding her Ensure Plus, peanut-butter, anything we could make her swallow. Her breathing was so fast and shallow that we didn’t know how she was living. We gave her small doses of Prednisone to help with her breathing, but only at the worst times, as Prednisone is sometimes contraindicated for fungal infections. She became lame, lost almost ½ her body weight, and seemed oblivious to everything.
Long nights were spent with her, tears were shed, we read to her, talked, petted, were afraid to sleep for fear that she would be gone when we woke up. She had a thin bloody discharge from her nostrils, and her nose was dried to a crust from the constant fever.
After about 3 weeks we started to see slight signs of improvement. One day she got up and scratched herself. Then she would stand on the step and give a couple of tentative barks. Soon she wanted to police the yard, and would raise her big old tail again. In a few more weeks, she was back to eating almost anything, and looking forward to her daily med with a spoonful of margarine.
Soon she began gaining weight, her hair came back, the sores healed, and 5 months later she was able to discontinue the Itraconazole. Her sight is fine, she has no lameness, and her coat is thick and shiny. She is now the fatand happy big-girl in the photo that graces this page. This was an awful ordeal for our family, and was only one of several unfortunate events that were happening at the same time.
We couldn’t have saved her without the help of Lisa’s Blastomycosis.ca, without the help and support of the wonderful people on that forum, and without the quick diagnosis of our veterinarian. Too many animals are lost due to delayed or missed diagnoses, or even the unwillingness of a veterinarian to diagnose what was once considered a "rare" disease.
As time permits, I will add as much information on Blastomycosis as I can find, in hopes that others will be able to save their beloved animals. They are blessed creatures who are only on loan to us, and in return for our efforts we receive unlimited and unconditional love. Hard to put a price on that.