Friday, August 10, 2012

When my dog got pythiosis

in memory of my dog, Greta

In hope to create awareness:
a real story, and a bit of a runt.

I can't stop thinking that:
IF the vets were more aware, 
IF she would have been diagnosed on time, 
IF she would have been treated for the right disease, 
IF, IF, IF... she would probably be still here.

I will start somewhere closer to the end:

what's pythiosis?

I'm not a scientist, nor a doctor: therefore I never heard about PYTHIOSIS (until few years ago).

Pythiosis is something that most vets don't know anything about.
The ones that heard about it often aren't taking it 
into consideration because "it's a rare disease".
Well, it's not that rare anymore.
And can be fatal not only to animals, but to humans as well.

Pythiosis results from the infection with the fungal-like organism Pythium insidiosumand occurs in Equines, Canines, Felines, Bovines, Humans and other species.   This disease is also known as Phycomycosis, “Florida Horse Leeches”, Swamp Cancer and other colloquial names.  The disease is worldwide in distribution and is especially prevalent in tropical regions. Recently, numerous cases have been reported in theMidwest and Northeast United States and as far north as Wisconsin and Washington State.

Symptoms include loss of appetite, vomit, diarrhea.

To have an early diagnosis there is a rather inexpensive test (ELISA) (it was about 40$ at the time).

This is a brief introduction from
If you want to know more, 
for accurate information, 
statistics, technical papers, go to: 

11/18/2006: the first day

One day, we decided that we could finally have a dog.
We adopted her from the city's shelter and named her Greta.
She was really skinny, about 1 year old, and incredibly sweet.

The day after at the vet clinic, they told us that she had to gain weight, but she was in good shape.
Small, but frequent portions would have done the trick.

two days later, she started to be sick

Frequent vomiting and diarrhea. 
These symptoms can be normal for a dog that has just change life style and diet.
But she would refuse any food, water, anything.
Another stop at the vet clinic and (a different vet) found a lump in her belly.
Although she was really skinny she advised to give her surgery to find out what that lump was about.
She had major surgery, while they removed a portion of her intestines. 
I've got a call few days later from the surgeon that said: "The good news is: it's not cancer. The bad news is: it could be anything else, and we don't know what it is"
They couldn't figure out what this lump was about, and started giving her antibiotics.

In the six months I had Greta, she has been misdiagnosed and treated with different kind of antibiotics for a number of diseases, including:
- gastroenteritis 
- colitis 
- Crohn sindrom
- pancreatitis 
For a total of 4 vets, expensive meds, ultrasounds, x-rays, biopsies and follow appointments and check-ups about every 10 days.

The diarrhea was still there, very frequent and bloody, and the vomiting too.
(and I spent most of these nights on the couch because she had to go out every 20-30 minutes or so)  

PavLab & Bob Glass

One day one of the vets at the clinic told me that she ran out of options, and the last thing was to take her to a veterinarian oncologist , because at this point (she said) maybe it could be cancer, after all.
The oncologist (which I didn't like as a human being, but was indeed way more capable than all of  the other vets) told me just by reading all what she's been through, that she most likely had gastro-intestinal pythiosis.
And he told me to leave her there to be euthanized because there was nothing to do.
Which of course, I didn't do.

Instead, I took Greta home (driving slowly while crying all my tears) and sat down at my computer.

I found  Dr. Mendoza's email address at Michigan State University, and he responded few hours later giving me the contact to Bob Glass at PavLab in Texas which is a Lab completely dedicated and focused on research about pythiosis.
Dr. Bob Glass is caring, dedicated and incredibly available.
The dream is to find a cure or even better, a vaccine for this awful disease.
Bob Glass & Rever, a pythiosis surviver that was given only few months of life

She got tested: and the result was positive.
He sent a serum to my vet to start Greta on an immunotherapeutic treatment  consisting on three shots over three weeks. 

Greta completed the first round of three shots, and was doing better. 

This treatment has been given high rate results treating horses, 
while for dogs is still and undergoing battle with a 35% success rate 
(mostly due to the lack of awareness by veterinarians
with lots of misdiagnosed cases  
which lead to a chronic stage)

5/13/2007: the last day

A couple of weeks later, one night, she started to get worse. She could barely breathe, she was clearly in pain, and she had to go out with bloody vomit every few minutes.
I left a voice mail on Bob Glass' phone and he called me back around 6 am: after explaining him all the symptoms, he figured that all of her organs were shutting down. 
I could only try to let her not be in too much pain.
An hour later she was on my lap, with a needle in her leg and I was saying good-bye forever.
She was about 1 year and 1/2 old. Too young to die.

Check these links:

PavLab technical papers: all you need to know about phytiosis (and wish you'll never need to face). 
Facebook Group where dog, cat and horse owners are sharing informations and tips (and hope). dedicated to Rusti, another black beautiful dog that lost his battle to pythiosis. 

Below you can download or print a flyer that Janie wrote, 
which summarize early symptoms and how to proceed.
She is one of the most active people on the Facebook group: she lost three of her dogs to pythiosis.
Please print or forward this flyer to your vets, dog parks, agility classes... anywhere where a word of mouth would be helpful to create more awareness: that's the only thing that will help save the life of more beloved dogs.

Pythiosis Insidiosum - FLYER

xox, d.


  1. I'm so sorry. You have a good idea talking about this, I'm sure you're saving lives!

    1. I really hope there will be a cure or a vaccine one day.

    2. There is a treatment for Pythiosis or Pythium I will find out the website address for you.

    3. You can go to a site called Fungus Free to get treatment and from the looks of the images before and after it seems to work. the website is

    4. I went to their website and viewed some of the images of horses with Pythium and Pythiosis and it made me sick. Im a dog lover but no animal should have to go throw that.

    5. Hi, sorry I thought I answered your messages earlier, but for some reasons they didn't show up.
      The treatment for pythium is still under research, and lately the disease has showed up in different forms, which leads to think that is evolving. Pav-Lab in Texas is the lab which is putting a lot of resources to fight this and the results are very positive in horses, while in dogs we are still counting the losses. I lost my dog in 2007, but still grieving when I read of another dog infected by pythium. so hearbreaking. Thanks for stopping by and thanks for your comments. Donatella

  2. aw the poor little darling :'( I cried reading this. Its beyond be how vets can be so casual about putting an animal down. I have a dog too and hes like part of the family and you dont just kill a family member because they are sick. My dog has skin conditions at the moment and id rather starve to get him better than get him put down. I bet you miss him so much, sorry he didnt make it xx

    1. I cried writing this! (I'm a baby when it comes to dogs) We ended up spending a ton of money and being in a dead end.
      One of my dogs is allergic to every-thing, she does very well with aloe (I buy the 99% pure at whole foods) even in case they lick and ingest it, it's perfectly safe. hope this helps.

  3. Thank you for posting this - now everyone who reads your post will be informed and looking out for it. My mother's dog almost died of another disease which vets don't look for: Addison's Disease. My brother-in-law wasn't as lucky as my mother, who got her dog to a pet hospital in a city where they knew what this disease was, and his Great Dane (especially common in that breed) died before he could get treatment. I know how much you love your dogs and this must have been so awful for you.

    1. I never heard of Addison's Disease, either - now I'll google it.
      I hope that spreading the voice will help a bit... so many pets and two kids died in the past few months to pythiosis. it's horrible.

  4. I'm so sorry! I'm going to share your post with friends with pets so they can also be aware! Thank you for sharing this with us. <3

  5. Sorry about Greta but good to know.

  6. I'm so sorry to hear about your puppy. Thank you for posting this and sharing this information.

    1. She didn't make it, but I'm hoping at least she didn't die in vain.

  7. I happen to know of a product that is used for the treatment of pythiosis. I am also the web designer who designed their website and when asked to post the treatment images I became sick. After I finished posting the image gallery and seen how much this product helped the dogs and horses that were treated with their product I had to tell others. Check out the dog cases page of the before and after treatment images.


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