An energetic black Lab-Great Dane mix named Buddy Miles had a health scare last month after contracting a rare fungus.
His owner, Reid Hyams, of Chicago, noticed that Buddy had lesions on his skin, was reluctant to walk and had red eyes.
The first veterinarian Hyams visited couldn't provide a correct diagnosis but treated 5-year-old Buddy for his symptoms, Hyams said. After a week and a half, Hyams sought a second opinion from Dr. Katie Baldwin of the VCA Misener-Holley Animal Hospital, and she had a diagnosis: blastomycosis.
"It's not a common disease in Chicago," Baldwin said, "but it's not something you haven't heard of in 15 years. It's definitely out there."
In the past, the infection has been reported more frequently in Indiana and southern Illinois, Baldwin said. She suspects there have been more cases in the Chicago area in recent years but said there isn't any solid statistical evidence.
Dr. Nancy Park of Eye Care for Animals in Chicago confirmed the diagnosis for Hyams and for Susan Gray, an Evanston owner of a cocker spaniel that was infected last year. The treatment for blastomycosis is a strong antifungal medication.
Caused by the fungus Blastomyces dermatitidis, blastomycosis is not contagious but can result in permanent blindness or death.
"The clock was ticking, and we didn't even know it was ticking," Gray said.
Buddy, named after the Jimi Hendrix drummer because Hyams got him the day Miles died, had symptoms common of blastomycosis — fever, respiratory problems and loss of appetite.
After learning about Buddy's story, Ald. Joe Moore, 49th, issued an alert Monday in an effort to raise awareness of an infection that often "isn't on people's radar," he said.
The fungus grows in moist soil and in areas around water, Moore said. Especially during periods of extended warmth, spores are released into the air that can be inhaled by dogs or enter open wounds.
Gray's cocker spaniel, Wyatt, with curly, soft fur like a teddy bear, is blind in one eye after the infection was caught early and treated in June.
Buddy, now completely blind, used to love going on five-mile walks. Now he struggles getting around the house, Hyams said.
"We'll try going on walks again soon," Hyams said.
Hyams and Moore said the fungus grows in small patches, and no widespread area is contaminated.
"I would say go on walks," Hyams said. "You can't tell someone to stay away from soil ... but if you see some of the symptoms, go to the vet."Copyright © 2015, RedEye