NEGAUNEE, Mich. (WJMN) – Veterinary clinics across the Upper Peninsula are seeing an increase in dogs with blastomycosis, a fungal infection that can lead to serious respiratory problems, and even death if left untreated.

Blastomycosis is a naturally-occurring fungus that lives in wet, swampy soil. Veterinarian Dr. Cheryl Shevy of the Negaunee Animal Clinic says areas of the UP are certainly an ideal environment for this organism.

“It’s a fungal organism that lives in the soil,” Shevy said. “Usually in moist soil areas where there’s, like, a lot of leafiness. Swampy, riverbeds, river valleys, lakes, any of those areas.”

Dogs can become infected by simply walking on disturbed earth, or digging a hole.

“It can emerge and with disturbed earth,” Shevy said. “So construction, dogs digging, you know any of those kinds of things, other animals digging into it.”

Vets expect to see a handful of blastomycosis cares each year. This year, however, there is a marked increase in the number of cases. Dr. Shevy can’t point to one specific reason for this increase, as some years are worse than others.

Symptoms of blastomycosis in dogs include coughing, fever, and lethargy. In some dogs the fungus can cause poor appetite, joint pain, and in rare cases the disease can spread to a dog’s nervous system.

Dr. Shevy says that owners should not walk their dogs too close to swampy, wet areas to avoid coming into contact with this potentially fatal fungus.