Preparing to say goodbye…

I wrote this blog yesterday but didn’t have time to post it. So, some things have changed. Our dog isn’t expected to make it to the research hospital. He likely won’t be going. He’s too sick…

Here is the original blog:

Rural dog owners in Kansas and Missouri take heed and pay attention to the article below!

Yesterday we found out our dog, Mickey, has a largely fatal condition, dysautonomia. It usually only occurs in dogs in Western Missouri and Eastern Kansas and it is largely rural farm dogs such as ours that get it. There’s a more than 90 percent mortality rate. “Routinely fatal” as the article below described it. Routinely fatal. Horrible words to read when a pet you love and care for has the disease.

It’s heartbreaking for us. Even though we are preparing to say good-bye, we are taking him to a K-State Veterinary Hospital that is doing studies on this disease that has no known cure. And, as far as we know, no known cause.

We are stunned. Stunned that this happened to our dog. Our good ‘ol dog. We are saddened. It really is a cruel thing that we only get to have our pets for so long. We generally outlive them. I hate it. And saying good-bye is so hard to do.

Here is an article on the disorder from

MANHATTAN — The autonomic nervous system controls involuntary body functions such as digestion, respiration, saliva production, blood pressure, gastrointestinal function, sweating and metabolism.
Dr. Kenneth Harkin, associate professor of veterinary medicine at Kansas State University, said a disease seen primarily in dogs in northeastern Kansas and Missouri kills by destroying this system.
As the autonomic nervous system is destroyed, dogs lose gut function, have trouble urinating completely and vomit uncontrollably, among other symptoms.
“Only a few cases are mildly affected, where the dogs can be medicated and survive,” Harkin said. “In general, it’s almost routinely fatal.”
Harkin said the cause for dysautonomia is unknown; therefore, there is no prevention available.
In other areas of the world, especially the United Kingdom, dysautonomia is found in horses, cats and rabbits. Harkin said dysautonomia is only found in dogs and cats in the United States, although feline dysautonomia is uncommon. The first case of canine dysautonomia was reported in Missouri in 1988. The first Kansas case was diagnosed in 1993.
He said the disease is common in the area and estimates Kansas has about 100 cases per year, most in the northeastern corner of the state. Most of the dogs affected are younger than 2 years of age and come from a rural environment.
Although the cause is unknown, Harkin said one of the prevailing theories is that it is the result of a clostridial toxin, possibly from clostridium botulinum. Clostridium botulinum is a soil-borne bacteria that can be found in rotting food and decaying flesh and may produce a variety of toxins. He said some of those toxins can kill nerves. Harkin said clostridial toxin production may be geographically limited, which would explain why the disease is primarily seen in Kansas and Missouri.
One aspect of dysautonomia that makes the cause of the disease especially difficult to identify is that it does not affect all exposed dogs.
“There may be five dogs on one property, but only one will end up with the disease,” Harkin said. “There appears to be variable susceptibility among dogs.”
Harkin said the only research on dysautonomia being done is at K-State and the University of Missouri, because these are the only two states affected. He said it’s difficult to acquire funding for canine dysautonomia research since the disease is not a nationwide epidemic and has no human equivalent.
Harkin said it’s important for veterinarians to know about the disease and be able to diagnose it quickly. He also said that dog owners need to recognize that the disease exists and any dog can be at risk.
Harkin has been with K-State since 1997. He earned his doctor of veterinary medicine from Iowa State University in 1989 and did his residency at Michigan State University. Harkin is the faculty adviser to the student chapters of the American Animal Hospital Association, American Association of Feline Practitioners and American Veterinary Medical Association.

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