Pythiosis: A Deadly Disease For Canines

smiling-dogDeadly Disease For Canines by Robert Glass, Pan American Vet Lab

Pythiosis is the disease that results from the infection with Pythium insidiosum, an organism that is similar to but not related to the fungi.  Pythiosis is more commonly seen in warm wet areas with lush vegetation, such as the Gulf Coast region of the US.  While horses are more commonly the victims of Pythiosis, dog pythiosis is now being diagnosed on a regular basis.  While pythiosis is not considered a “common” problem, it is believed to be fatal in more than 95% of undiagnosed cases.  Even when correctly diagnosed conventional treatment is able to save only 20-25% of infected dogs.


Exposure to standing water; Pythium lives and grows in plants near water and reproduces via a “swimming spore” that travels through water to a new plant.  This is the infectious form of Pythium and it can infect an animal through a break in the skin or by being ingested.

Skin infections start as lesions that look like a small puncture wound.  These turn into large ulcerative abscesses that grow quickly and don’t respond to medications.

Intestinal infections show up weeks to months after exposure when the dog shows these symptoms:


1) Diarrhea which starts as soft stool then progresses to consistent watery stool often with blood.

2) Vomiting after eating, starts when the patient’s intestinal tract becomes swollen and thickened.

3) Blood appears in the feces as the lesion grows damaging the surrounding tissues and blood vessels. Blood soon appears giving the stool a black tarry appearance or blood loss and diarrhea may result in a fresh “red” blood in the feces. 4) Weight loss occurs as the patient’s ability to digest food decreases; the patient is now in real danger.

5) Loss of energy and activity is seen in advanced cases due to nutrition loss and perhaps to pain as the damage in the intestine continues.

Diagnosis by X-Ray or ultrasound may give a presumptive diagnosis of cancer or Irritable Bowel Syndrome. The cost to treat will be thousands of dollars and success is low.  However, there is a $40 blood test to rule out Pythium available from PavLab to diagnose Pythiosis.  If the patient has Pythiosis, an affordable treatment is now available.

None of the conventional treatments used to combat Pythium infection have shown more than 20-25% success. A recent development in this arena is an Immunotherapy product that is a mixture of (non infectious) proteins purified from the Pythium organism injected into the patient.  This treatment seeks to stimulate the patient’s own immune system to fight the infection.  Research and clinical trials are ongoing on a “Canine” version of this product, which has shown very encouraging results in small-scale studies.

For more info, visit

13 Responses to Pythiosis: A Deadly Disease For Canines

  1. Jan Williams

    September 20, 2009 at 10:06 am

    We just lost our beloved Duke a 4 year old Boxer to Pythiosis. Our vet referred us to Texas A&M small animal clinic which gave us the diagnosis. We are at a loss as to how Duke got this disease. The only thing we can come with is that he ingested infected grass. Duke was an inside dog, never near water. If your dog has unexplained appetite loss and diarreah, ask your vet to test for pythiosis. We were going to try the immunization suggested by PAV lab, this is the only source that is doing anything to prevent this disease, but it was too late for Duke, almost 4 weeks passed before we were able to get the diagnosis and he was too weak. We are devestated by our loss and the thought there was nothing we could do to help him. Read about this disease. It is showing up more and more. Could it be all the flooding and standing water issues we have in Houston? Texas A&M one of the leading Vet schools knows little of how to treat. They told us the first day they saw Duke that if it turned out to be Pythiosis there was little or no change for him to survive.

  2. Janie Norris

    September 28, 2009 at 10:50 pm

    The web site is not complete; however, it does have information about Pythiosis. It also includes ‘My Story’ which shows 35 other dogs that have died recently to this disease and about 15 who have survived. Many of these owe their live to the serum produced by Pan American Vet. Lab. A very big Thanks to Dr. Silberman DVM who donated to the American College of Vet. Internal Medicine Foundation in my Maggie’s behalf when she died. This opened the doors to my push for Awareness & Research. The website will have a summary of the research protocol once it is finalized. Call Bob Glass of Pan American Vet. Lab. for more information. 800-856-9655

  3. Krystle

    December 21, 2009 at 6:08 pm

    I have a 10month old Miniature Schnauzer, we have been battling this Pythium since August…3 surgeries and one round of the trial vaccine and she is losing the battle. We live north of Houston in Jacksonville (near Tyler), and bodies of water she had been in are our personal pond @ home & the city Lake. IF anyone has ANY other treatment options that would be great! Hope for the best for my little Lola! (We are TRYING a 2nd round of the vaccine….)

  4. Janie Norris

    December 22, 2009 at 7:44 am

    Please contact me privately at

  5. theresa

    February 27, 2010 at 6:45 pm

    My 11 month old Great Pyrenees Puppy just died from this two days ago. By the time we realized something was wrong it was already too late, but we tried to give him a chance. I wasn’t giving up on him when he wasn’t giving up on himself.

    Titan has always thrown up a little bit if he ate to fast or was in a car; it wasn’t until the two days of explosive diarrhea that I took him to the vet. Thinking it was an intestinal bug we went home with antibiotics…scared cause he had already lost 30 pounds. A week went by and he still wasn’t better and really didn’t want to eat. Back to the vet…this time they felt a mass in his abdomen (didn’t show up on xrays and barium xrays showed an outline of something but appeared to be in his intestine) and he wasn’t having bowel movements; thinking it was a bowel obstruction (he had a rawhide bone about a month earlier) we went through enemas and finally decided to surgically go in and move the obstruction by hand…only it wasn’t an obstruction. By this time the lymph node on the messentary root was the size of my hand. Vet took a biopsy and sent it off…thought we might be dealing with cancer or a granduloma (vet heard of Pythiosis but thought it was rare and slim chance)…prayed so hard that it wasn’t cancer…I didn’t know the alternative was going to be so much worse….

    Two weeks after this discovery he died due to perforation of the intestines from the disease. One month from the time of his first explosive diarrhea.

    Living on 15 acres I didn’t pay close attention to his bowel movements since he always went up into the woods to use the bathroom. I failed my dog…I had no idea something like this was out there…Most vets don’t realize this is out there.

    My roommate took his yorkie poo puppy into a different vet for her regular shots, his vet basically said that there is nothing out there that can take a dog that fast or in this manner…So now I am on a campaign to educate the vets in our area (Meade, Breckenridge, and Hardin County, Ky)… Not only is this a big dog area but it is also Horse country… Vets need to know. Owners need to know…

  6. Norma Smith

    September 12, 2010 at 12:38 am

    We are located in Atlanta TX, which is about 1 ½ hrs NE of Tyler, TX. My friend has a 4 yr old Pomeranian that has been diagnosis with the skin type pythiosis. He has had 2 of the series of 3 injections and shows no signs of improvement. She first went to the local vet who treated the “skin infection” with an ointment. After getting no better the next week she went to a vet in Texarkana who diagnosed a “hot spot” and treated with a cortisone injection, antibiotics, and ointment. When the second spot showed up she went back to another vet in the same office in Texarkana. He said he had never seen this before, and immediately did a biopsy, which confirmed pythiosis.

    This dog has never been away from his master, nor out of his yard, and has no access to stagnant water. Now he is fighting a losing battle and we have been unable to find a reason. These horrible skin lesions now cover one side of his face and ear, part of the other side, his tail, and now the bottom of a foot. The vet wants to give this third injection before giving up, but not if he continues to break out. From all the information we find, the skin form is rarer than the other kinds, plus him being a very small inside dog.

    Any help or information you may provide will be appreciated. What can be done to demand research for treatment for this fast growing disease, and also, to educate vets who are unaware that it even exists?

  7. Jo

    October 30, 2010 at 9:01 am

    We live in Pike Road, AL., on 5 acres and have 7 dogs, and horses as well. Our beautiful TX Blue Lacy has just gotten a positive reading for pythiosis. He has been at the vet since Tuesday, Oct. 26. He had been vomiting and would not eat, diarrhea, and very depressed/lethargic. We noticed this mostly on Sunday, but then he would eat a bit, and perk up, and we just thought it was a bug/virus. The vet’s first thought was an obstruction……anyway after ultrasound and GI barium tests……they felt like it was one of 3 things (obstruction,pythiosis, or telescoping of the intestines) Well, I got online and began reading about the pythiosis, and cried for 3 hours. I got as much info as possible and insisted on a blood test with Dr. Glass. We overnighted the blood serum, and found out yesterday the positive results. The vets already planned on doing exploratory surgery, and will still have to go in and remove the portion of the intestines where the barium was passing thru very slowly. We saw him on Thursday and he was so glad to see us. Surgery was suppose to be yesterday, Friday, but was put off until Monday, so they could try and give him some anti vomiting meds and pepto bismol type med. Also, they were giving him some liquid nutrition by syringe to see if he could tolerate that. We plan to have the surgery to remove/repair the intestine so he can pass food and eat again. We will begin the immunotherapy asap after surgery and hope & pray for good results. Luke’s weight is still good, and I am praying that he will respond to the vaccine. Like all of you, I had never heard of this before. We are devastated at this diagnosis, but are doing everything that we can to try and save Luke. I am not sure how long we are into this disease and how much damage is done. Please pray for us! I hope and pray we can be a success story so that others might have some hope, but no matter what, we are spreading the word about this terrible pythiosis.

  8. Michelle Yates

    November 9, 2010 at 10:04 am

    I live in Chapmansboro, TN which is about 30 miles outside of Nashville. My dog Nacho a lab-mix was just diagnosed yesterday with pythiosis. I took him to a specialist last Tuesday by recommendation of my usual vet because she felt a lump in his lower abdomin and he had diarrhea. X-ray showed a mass the size of a grapefruit. Exploratory surgery was done and they just closed him back up because they thought he had Lymphoma. It was attached to too many vital organs to remove. We were actually hoping for cancer so he could at least be treated with chemo but we were given the news yesterday that it was in fact pythiosis. We have a pond in our front yard and there had been flooding in May and unusually hot temperatures this summer, all probably contributed to this condition. I have 2 other labs that are 10 and 11 that so far have shown no signs of this condition but they say it usually occurs in young dogs. Nacho will be 2 in Jan. It has been devastating to find out there is no magic pill to take or any other type of treatment. We just thought he ate something in the yard and had a little diarrhea now we know he drank something in the yard that is fatal to him. I will say prayers for all of you who have suffered a loss of your furry four legged babies and please say one for me and Nacho.

  9. Jonathan

    January 8, 2014 at 1:12 pm

    If you go to you can buy a treatment for Pythiosis and it says that it works on dogs and horses but I think it works on all animals.

  10. Derreck Ogden

    March 3, 2014 at 10:23 pm

    Our dogs, horses and other animals don’t have to suffer from this disease. Treatment is actually simple… there is a line of products specifically designed to treat and prevent infections from pythium insidiosum called Fungus Free Plus. It’s a simple essential oil formula and it’s a terrific holistic alternative to surgery and vaccinations that ACTUALLY WORKS!

    Check out the site at BEFORE ONE MORE ANIMAL HAS TO SUFFER!

  11. Pingback: Pythium Insidiosum-Swamp Cancer | ShepardingFaith

  12. Carrie Swann

    June 7, 2015 at 11:34 pm

    I visited the site and although I saw several claims that this product can cure Pythium, I searched the testimonials and could not find a single account of a dog being diagnosed by a vet and being cured with Fungus Free Plus. If I just “missed it” somehow, please share the testimonials that are documented cures of a dog diagnosed with Pythium.

  13. Kelly Jo

    December 2, 2016 at 7:32 pm

    I’m so sorry for all you and your fur buddies are going and have gone through. My baby, Future, an american bulldog, just celebrated his 3rd birthday Nov 18. I noticed a couple weeks ago that he wasn’t feeling well, not wanting to eat, lethargic, had (small amounts of vomiting and diarrhea. At first, I thought it was his food because of recent history with certain brands. Immediately, I bought a very expensive bag from Pet Smart only for him to sniff it and turn his head. Then someone told me that he may have a parasite or worms so I wormed him. By this time, he had lost a ton of weight, he was so boney. With it being the week of Thanksgiving, it was hard to find a vet open but luckily my husband was able to get him in the following day. The vet assumed that he had something blocking his small intestines and scheduled surgery the following Monday morning. Thay weekend was horrible. The anxiety of him having surgery drove me insane, wondering and not knowing what he could have possibly swallowed was mind blowing and on top of that, I didn’t sleep a wink. I had to feed him chicken just to get him to eat and put pedialite in a squirt bottle just to keep him dehydrated. I took him in for surgery at 8, they were going to start fluids, a cathader, a radio graph then surgery at 2. The entire day was nerve wrecking then I received the call around 2:40. They explained that the masses were in both the large and small intestines and was too large of an area to remove and would be unable to survive even if they removed it. They assumed it was lymphoma. I couldn’t make the call to let them put him to sleep, so I had my husband call them. They sent off biopsies which came back as pythium. This is a devistating loss for not only me and my children but also to everyone who knew him. He was like a 3rd child to me, my kids called him their brother. I’m going to do everything I can possible to be an advocate and help spread awareness to make people awknowledgeable of this horrible disease so hopefully Noone ever has to deal with the loss of another pet over this. May we all find peace in our hearts as we grieve our furry friends.