Pythium is a water mold that has damaged some areas on one of the golf courses on Seabrook Island, but what our family discovered was that this mold can also cause devastating health problems for dogs.
Our daughter’s family was staying at our house on Seabrook this past summer while their house was being renovated.
One of their dogs (Huey, a 2-year-old, 45-pound Lab mix) contracted pythiosis insidiosum (from the mold pythium) which can affect the gastric-intestinal tract or cause skin lesions. We think he got it from drinking water from street puddles during walks. This mold is found in many tropical areas of Southern portions of the United States. It is sometimes referred to as swamp cancer. Diagnosis of this disease is very difficult and costly and is often found too late. In Huey’s case, the disease located itself in his colon, causing bloody diarrhea. Surgery is unfortunately not an option, and his prognosis is poor. He is currently being treated with several anti-fungal and pain medications. It will be a longterm treatment if he can maintain his strength and weight.
We are part-year residents from Michigan and have owned our home on Seabrook since 1991. My husband is a retired veterinarian and had never seen a case of this disease in the North.
There are hundreds of species of the pythium plant pathogenic, and only a few species can affect dogs. However, it is clear that pythium insidiosum exists in our area and can harm our pets.
Some research shows that certain dogs may be more susceptible to the disease due to a limited immune system. Blood tests can be done to determine if a dog has been exposed to the mold.
In reaching out to other dog owners on Seabrook, I heard another sad story. I contacted Mitch Pulver, former president of SIDogs, in an effort to spread awareness of this problem.
He also had a dog which contracted pythiosis insidiosum (from the St. Louis area) several years ago. Once diagnosed, it was too late to save his dog from the infection, which resulted in an amputated leg and tail.
Our family would hate to see any other dog owners deal with this horrible disease.