Blastomycosis is a systemic fungal infection which causes illness when it is either inhaled into the lungs causing pneumonia or introduced into an open wound causing a localized skin infection.  Once the organism is in the body it transforms into yeast and can migrate to the lymph nodes, eyes, bones and central nervous system. The disease has a 1 to 3 month incubation period. Blastomycosis is common in the Great lakes and Mississippi river basin area and is found in sandy, acidic soil near water. We do see and treat cases at Animal Family.  There has recently been an uptick in cases in the greater Chicago area so it is worth familiarizing yourself with the symptoms of this disease.

 Dogs are the species most susceptible to Blastomycosis.  People and cats can become infected as well but with much less frequency.  In dogs, hunting breeds aged 2 – 4 years are the typical patient.  When cats do become infected they are generally young to middle aged.

Signs may include some but not all of the following:

  • Weight loss/depression
  • Fever up to 104 F (seen in 50% of cases)
  • Swollen Lymph nodes
  • Decreased appetite
  • Harsh, dry cough (pneumonia)
  • Enlarged testicles
  • Redness and discharge from the eyes (ocular)
  • Lameness (bone)
  • Draining skin lesions (cutaneous)
  • Fainting if the heart is affected
  • Seizures and dementia if the central nervous system is affected.

Diagnosis is made through:

  • Radiographs in cases of cough and pneumonia.
  • Cytology of lung/ lymph node aspirates and skin lesions.
  • Histopathology of bone lesions.Laboratory cultures of tissue samples.
  • Blood titers

Treatment with antifungal medications is successful in 75% of the cases. If antifungals are unsuccessful, surgical removal of lung abscesses may be required. In animals with severe breathing problems, supplemental oxygen may be required for up to a week. Even with treatment, animals with eye involvement may become permanently blind. Males with testicular involvement generally require castration. Early diagnosis improves the chance for survival.  About 20% of dogs may relapse and require a second course of treatment