MARQUETTE - Dogs have been diagnosed with blastomycosis in Big Bay and surrounding areas.
Blastomycosis - or blasto, as it is generally known- is a fungal infection caused by an organism that thrives in wet environments such as lakes, swamps and riverbanks where damp soil lacks direct sunlight, said Dr. Tim Hunt, a veterinarian who operates the Bayshore Veterinary Hospital in Harvey.
Most dogs who are infected show flu-like symptoms, sometimes with a cough, he said.
"I've seen this before and usually, we'll get a focal area of blastomycosis outbreak," Hunt said.
Dogs may be exposed to the organism for one to five months before they start to show symptoms of the infection. Blasto usually grows in northern Minnesota, lower Wisconsin and lower Michigan, but Upper Peninsula veterinarians are seeing it more and more in the area.
It's difficult to prevent a dog from getting the infection, but it's recommended to try to keep dogs away from freshly disturbed soil such as gardens and other damp soil areas in the woods and near swamps.
"I don't see it often, but it seems to be localized," Hunt said. "A lot of cases seem to be coming out of (Lake) Independence," he said. "So take it with a grain of salt as to where you take your dog."
Blastomycosis is treatable if detected early. The symptoms in dogs are loss of appetite, depression, weight loss and a possible cough and skin lesions. It's recommended that if your dog has a cough, to take him or her in for treatment as soon as possible.
The disease is not contagious to humans or other animals in most stages, but if a dog has skin lesions, it can be spread through those.
Adelle Whitefoot can be reached at 906-228-2500.