Pet Owner Warning: Deadly Dog Fungus - NBC4: Columbus, Ohio News, Weather, and Sports (WCMH-TV)

Pet Owner Warning: Deadly Dog Fungus

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Attention pet owners: there is a deadly disease lurking near your pet, and you've probably never heard of it.

Dogs are dying around the country because of something they can get in an instant.

"Your stomach just sinks when you realize that this is even a possibility," said Patrick DeHaan.

A day at the beach in Chicago left DeHaan's best friend, his dog Prince, with an eye infection.

But it quickly got worse.

"Your dog is now blind," DeHaan said.

The 6-year-old Golden Retriever contracted the fungal infection Blastomycosis.

"Blastomycosis is a fungal spore, and present in most soils and typically in river valley areas. So, Ohio River valley, Mississippi, Tennessee," said Dr. Evelyn Tannhof, of Health and Harmony Animal Hospital in Grandview.

Tannhof said any dog can contract the infection, but it's more common in dogs that sniff and hunt. Younger male dogs are most at risk, and they contract it by sniffing, digging, and rooting around.

It's inhaled, gets into the blood stream and goes straight for the organs.

So what should pet owners look for?

"Back to the lungs, so coughing, exercise intolerance, being lethargic," Tannhof said.

Other symptoms include limping, open wounds, and eye lesions.

"So it can cause ocular lesions, redness, or inflammation of the eye, so you'd notice that," Tannhof said.

DeHaan noticed the signs, but it was too late for Prince.

"His blindness is permanent. The fungus attacked his eyes to the point that his retinas detached," DeHaan said.

"It can be deadly," Tannhof said.

Blastomycosis can also look like other diseases, so it might not be on your radar.

"It's something that nobody wants to hear your dog has," DeHaan said.

Treatment of Blastomycosis is long-term, usually involving antifungal oral medications.

Cats can contract it, too, but experts said dogs are far more likely.

While it's not as common in Central Ohio, dogs can contract the infection anywhere, and it's especially important for those who take their dogs to a beach or riverbank to play.

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