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What is Rhinosporidium?

The term Rhinosporidium actually refers to a group of environmental fungi. Though one species, in particular, does cause us worry because it can cause opportunistic infections in the nose of dogs, horses, livestock and people.

In regards to areas of risk, we tend to find these fungi in tropical areas like India, South-East Asia and the Americas and a few reports of infections in cooler locations like England. When these fungi are present, it tends to be found in the decaying plant, stagnant water, and dust.

Are there different types of rhinosporidium?

Since Rhinosporidium is a genus of fungi, there are a number of fungal members. Though it is

Rhinosporidium seeberi specifically, that can cause disease in dogs.

What causes rhinosporidiosis in dogs?

The fungus Rhinosporidium seeberi causes rhinosporidiosis in immune suppressed animals or one with recent damage to the delicate mucous lining the nose inhales the fungi’s spores. This can happen if a dog is sniffing or potentially ingesting vegetation, dust or water contaminated with this fungus. The spores then proliferate in the warm nasal passage leading to growths of fungal polyps or masses within the nasal lining. This can also on occasion spread up the tear duct and into the conjunctiva around the eye leading to fungal lumps.

What symptoms would suggest that a dog might have rhinosporidiosis?

The most common clinical signs we see with rhinosporidiosis is chronic intermittent bouts of sneezing and nasal discharge. This is due to the fungi inflaming, irritating and damaging the nasal mucosa.  In more advanced cases or those where the fungi have caused masses to form, we see nosebleeds. Often the bleeding will be one-sided but can appear in both nostrils. Also if the masses are quite large, they can affect nasal airflow causing congestion or even difficulty breathing.

As well, though thankfully rare with this fungal species, we can see severe fungal infections eat away at the boney lining on the inside of the nose. This can cause severe damage and even risk compromising the boney barrier between the back of the nose and the brain. If that happens, the pet’s clinical signs and prognosis get much worse.

How is rhinosporidium diagnosed in dogs?

If a veterinarian suspects Rhinosporidium, they can anaesthetize their patient and use a small scope with a camera to see into the nasal passage. If fungal plaques are detected, then the vet can collect a sample of this infected tissue for testing and analysis under the microscope. Alternatively, for a definitive diagnosis, some specialist labs can test these samples with PCR to look for the presence of the fungi’s genetic material is present to confirm the fungi itself is present in the nose and likely causing the signs the dog was suffering from.

If an owner suspects rhinosporidium, when would be the right time to consult an Expert or to take the dog to a Vet?

Since fungal infections are quite serious and can be subtle until they are already well advanced, if an owner suspects their dog has been exposed to Rhinosporidium then they should be proactive and speak to an Expert about their suspicions and dog’s symptoms to help them determine if they need to see their vet as soon as possible for testing and potentially treatment.

How is rhinosporidium treated? Are there any home remedies?

Unfortunately, this isn’t an infection that can be treated at home. Since the nasal mucosa isn’t easily accessible, veterinary treatment often needs to be quite aggressive to remove this fungal infection and stop the damage it may be causing. Often we need to anaesthetize our patients to remove all the fungal plaques and associated damaged tissue surgically. Afterwards, to remove any lingering fungal material, we follow this with systemic antifungal therapy. In difficult cases, we do sometimes need to perform a rhinotomy and apply special antifungal drugs up the nose to clear this terrible fungal infection and help the nasal tissue heal.

How much can rhinosporidium treatment cost?

The cost of treating does vary on how severe the infection is. Generally speaking, mild cases only requiring one treatment can be a few hundred dollars, though more severe or persisting cases could be much costlier to cure.

What would be the prognosis for a dog with rhinosporidium?

If treated in the early stages of infection and provided the fungi strain present is responsive to that treatment, the prognosis for recovery is good. Though if the infection is severe, the nasal damage already extensive, or the strain is resistant to treatment; these will all negatively impact the prognosis for these cases.

Anything to note about a dog’s recovery from rhinosporidium?

Well, in straightforward cases, owners just need to make sure to keep them calm and quiet after the procedure. They will also want to make sure that they always give all post-operative the prescribed medication to prevent relapse and to keep their dog’s comfortable. For more intensive cases that require multiple treatments, their vet will outline a post-operative care plan for their dog based on their individual needs.

Is there anything else dog owners need to know about rhinosporidium?

Owners just need to be vigilant about what their dogs are in contact with. Furthermore, if their dog develops this condition, owners need to be aware that these fungi can infect people. So, all children, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems should be kept away from close contact with the infected dog. As well, since spores in the air and found in dust, we’d want to separate airspaces and make sure good quality hygiene is used at home.


About the Author:

Dr. B, Veterinary Expert on JustAnswer

Dr. B has been an Expert on JustAnswer since June 2011, with over 12,162 satisfied customers.

Dr. B has a Bachelors in Veterinary Medicine and Surgery from the University of Glasgow; a Bachelor’s of Science in Animal Science and Aquaculture from the University of Davis, California; and a graduate certificate in Veterinary Forensic Science. She has been a veterinary surgeon for over eight years, and has practiced all over the country with a wide range of species (cats, dogs, fish, birds, cows and sheep). She has also been involved in a number of veterinary research projects helping further veterinary infectious disease knowledge.

Dr. B is a longtime member of the British Small Animal Veterinary Association and the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. Currently she is dividing her time between clinical practice and running the diagnostic laboratory for a UK veterinary school. This allows her to take care of her own patients while also assisting other veterinary surgeons throughout the country with their patients. In her spare time, she is a keen photographer, an amateur artist, and enjoys walking adventures with her St. Bernard.
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