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.

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