Medical Diagnosis of Blastomycosis?: Yes
Where Caught: Northern Minnesota, in either the Lake Vermilion area or Bemidji.
Symptoms: Charlie started with a cough. He woke us up one morning and it seemed strange since it wasn't provoked by eating or drinking anything. His cough started as if he was clearing his throat and then it would be followed with a dry cough-like gagging without any results. We assumed he had bronchitis or something similar and kept an eye on him. After 3-4 days, he began to lose his appetite and finally, when he wouldn't touch his treats, we knew something was wrong and took him to the vet right away. After diagnosis and during treatment, Charlie developed a runny nose and goopy eyes, lack of energy, depression, sore joints, stiffness, continued coughing (even a month later-though it became more of a wet cough), weight loss due to lack of appetite, increased thirst, poor posture, and loose stools. We are not sure if any of these symptoms are related to blasto itself, or as a side effect from his meds.
Treatment: Charlie was tested right away for blastomycosis because we had mentioned to the vet that we had traveled north recently. They kept Charlie for the day and did x-rays and bloodwork. When we came back to pick him up, we got to see the x-rays, which showed some fuzziness in the lungs–a sort of spiderweb-like pattern that made the distinction of his heart blurry. They kept him to do a tracheal wash to test for what the substance was in his lungs and we were sent home without any meds. Two days later, he was given the diagnosis of blastomycosis and put on itraconazole at 200 mg twice daily for the first 5 days, and then 200 mg once daily for the next 60 days with a check-up in 4 days to monitor his progress on the meds and in one month for more x-rays and bloodwork. At his first check-up in a few days, they prescribed an antibiotic for 2 weeks to help prevent the normal bacteria in his airways from causing pneumonia while his lungs were susceptible. A week later, we returned to the vet because of his watery, goopy eyes and he was given a steroidal ointment to put in his eyes twice daily for about 10 days.
Cost of Treatment: We purchased a wellness plan through our vet to help defray costs and cover the x-rays and hospitalization. Our first experience in purchasing the itraconazole found us looking at other options due to the price. We ordered compounded itra, but our vet, who had an assistant still at the U of M, did not recommend the compounded formula and so we ordered itra through an online pharmacy that was much cheaper than in the states. Vet costs to-date: $1000; Pharmacy costs to-date: $600; + a grocery shopping spree to load up on foods that might help Charlie eat.
Additional Comments: After lots of research on a dog's diet, we switched Charlie to Solid Gold's Barking at the Moon due to the high protein/high fat content which would help him gain weight and is grain-free. We learned dogs can't digest grains. We also learned that garlic is a natural anti-fungal and began coating his food with dried garlic (not cooked because it loses its anti-fungal properties) and made sure not to feed him any sugars since we read that blasto feeds on sugar. We have had to force-feed Charlie three times a day in order to keep his weight (and what energy he has) up.