Buster Blue: May 27, 2012 – August 26, 2013

Our sweet Buster Blue passed away yesterday.

May doggie heaven be full of big bones to chew….


….big fish to catch…


…fluffy down pillows to sleep on…


…baby ducks to sniff…

…no baths….


…and new best friends…



Pythiosis: Swamp Cancer

Buster’s death was sudden. We didn’t even have a chance to say our goodbyes. For the past few days, he wasn’t able to keep food down and just lost so much weight. We thought it was just something he ate that didn’t agree with his stomach, or just sick. Yesterday, Scott brought him to the vet – we were just expecting antibiotics and instead, the vet instructed us to bring him to the emergency center.

After an ultrasound, the vet told Scott that Buster needed surgery. There was a foreign object in his intestines. This didn’t surprise me, as Buster has a habit of getting into things all of the time, he’s chewed up remote controls, stolen eggs from the hens, chewed up our car fender and eaten tennis balls.

After just a few minutes in surgery, the surgeon came back and just shook his head. Buster was in very late stages of intestinal damage from Pythiosis. The right thing to do would be to just not wake him up and let him go. He’s in a lot of pain and would just continue to get worse.

I was at home with the boys while Scott explained to me the best he could over the phone what the surgeon recommended. I was afraid to bring the boys to see Buster, as he was all hooked up for surgery….I didn’t want them to see Buster after death. So we said goodbye to Buster in a prayer and in our own little way.

Do you know about Pythiosis? It’s a water & mold infection.

From Pet MD: 

“Belonging to the phylum Oomycota, Pythium insidiosum is a parasitic spore that is capable of spontaneous movement (or a motile zoospore) that enters the body through the nose/sinuses, esophagus, or through the skin. Infection then usually settles in the dog’s lungs, brain, sinuses, gastrointestinal tract, or skin.

Affected dogs will exhibit subcutaneous or cutaneous masses, which develop as lesions on the legs, tail, head, neck, perineum, and/or the inside of the thigh.

Pythiosis is typically thought of as occurring in swampy areas in the southeastern U.S., and has thus been nicknamed “swamp cancer.” Signs of pythiosis usually appear in the fall or early winter months, and while this organism does typically thrive in tropical and subtropical waters, such as ponds, wetlands, and swamps, it has been found to occur as far west as the central valley of California.”

Basically, warm, standing water encourages parasite growth. Where we live in Gulf Coast Florida, we are surrounded by tropical swampland. With all of the constant rain this summer, our property is the ripe environment for Pythiosis. The dogs play and drink from our ponds, small flooded grassy areas in the front yard.

“This infection is caused by direct contact with water that accommodates Pythium insidiosum, a water borne fungal parasite. It is usually swallowed or inhaled by the dog, and from there makes its way to the animal’s intestinal tract.” — Pet MD

Because it is a rare, very aggressive disease and not many vets have ever seen Pythiosis, or even heard of it, it’s often fatal by the time the dog is diagnosed. In fact, this was the first time that our vet and surgeon have ever experienced seeing Pythiosis first hand. The disease does not respond to anti-fungal medication. There have only been a handful of cases where the pet has survived.

Here’s what you can do:

Do not let your dog drink from or play in still, stagnant, warm, fresh water ponds, wetlands, swamps or large puddles, especially in the Gulf States. Do not let them eat grass from these types of waters. In fact, children should not play in those types of waters either.

Pythiosis Resources:


AKC: Pythiosis “Swamp Cancer” 

Indiana Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory

Veterinary Partner

National Institute of Health: Pythiosis in Dogs

National Institute of Health: Gastrointestinal pythiosis in 10 dogs from California

Low Country Dog: Ask the Vet

Rottweiler Health: New diagnostic test for Pythiosis

Michigan State University: Canine Pythiosis



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Comments 349

  1. Alison Allen

    I just stumbled across your blog after seeing The Pioneer Woman showcase your cookbook on her blog. I’m deeply saddened for your family’s loss. I am dealing with a sudden loss of one of my young fur babies who passed away unexpectedly last week. I know the heartbreak all too well. Wishing you and your family peace during this time, and I look forward to keeping up with your blog.

  2. Olivia Rubin

    My sorrow to you and your family. The awareness you have given me. I have a lab..a water dog, so I am now reading up further on this, as I too live in South Florida. This reminds me of what the young boy just passed away, Zachary Reyna,that enters via nose. The amoeba that killed him sounds similar.

    I am so sorry to you and your family. Your story has always raised awareness and possibly saved others from experiencing the horror you are now going thru.

  3. Gina

    Jaden, my heart is breaking for your family’s loss. How lucky Buster Blue was to have all your love, and for you to be strong enough to allow him to go over the Rainbow Bridge when his pain was so great. Sending you all love and hugs.

  4. Charlotte Ramlow

    How sad to hear of your loss. I am sending your email to my daughter as she has 3 rescue dogs and should be aware. Your loss and your willingness to share will probably help a lot of other dogs and yes, even children. Thank you, what a heartbreak.

  5. Rhonda

    So sorry to hear of your loss. What a beautiful boy he was. Keeping your family in prayers. Thank you for the info, my dog has been running and playing in similar wet areas made by all the rain. Hopefully, he hasn’t been infected and now I know to keep him out.

  6. Cristine

    My condolences to you and your family. I have followed your beloved Buster Blue and have watched him grow up and enjoy a wonderful life with his family through your beautiful photos.
    He most certainly had a loving and fun life. He will be missed by all who have known him and have grown to love him through your posts.

  7. Rita Huguley

    Buster Blue was so beautiful so sad to lose him at such a young age. I’m very sorry for your family’s loss.


    Rita Huguley

  8. Lynnda

    I sent a pm to you but wanted to say something here. Pythiosis is an allergic reaction to water mold. My Godric had it almost two years ago, and we live in the DFW area. He had not been out of the area so he contracted it there. Most vets do know know about the test for this disease or the serum that saves many dogs.
    By the time Godric was diagnosed, he’d gone from 60 lbs to 47. Our vets did lots of testing and never went straight to surgery. I was lucky enough to know another Dal owner who has dealt with this terrible disease. Because of her and PAVLAB, along with vets who listened, my dog recovered. If you live in an area prone to this, and it is much more common than you think because it is often misdiagnosed, please check out our fb group. It is an open group with lots of information and support.
    Dogspeed, Blue.

  9. Bonnie Ferguson

    I’m so sorry for your sudden loss and I thank you for the information on this deadly disease. May your hearts heal quickly.

  10. Lyndsey (Tiny Skillet)

    So sorry to hear about Buster Blue he was a beautiful dog. Thanks for the information on Pythiosis . Living near where you live with a dog that loves water I need this knowledge to keep Mika safe. My thoughts are with you and your family! ((Hugs))

  11. Ellen A

    I am so sorry for your loss. What a lovely tribute to an obviously lovely and loved family member. Thank you for sharing what you have learned. Hugs to you and your family.

  12. Carrie Newman

    I am so sorry to hear about Buster Blue. I would assume that can happen here in our very sunny Queensland, Australia so will be very careful with our Jack Russell’s.

    Warm hugs to you all

  13. Chris Watanabe

    so sorry for your loss. i remember the excitement when Buster first joined your household. {{{hugs}}}

  14. Janie

    I’m sorry for your loss & know he pain all too well. I too have lost to pythiosis. However, in 2007 I found the website http://www.pythiosis.com; a site started in memory of Rusti, a competition field lab that died in 2006 of pythiosis. The site owner put me in touch with PAVLab / Pan American Veterinary Lab, Robert Glass (www.pavlab.com). At the time he was working with Dr. Mendoza of Michigan State Univ.; he still works with Mendoza, but Dr. Hansen joined the team a couple years ago. Together they make an Immunological serum that gives the animal about 55% chance of survival. The key is early diagnosis and that is part of the current problem. Many vets heard the word in college but still believe the old stories of stagnant water, rare & always fatal. In the high humidity areas of the Gulf Coast, the morning dew on grass is enough to form the oomycete that infects the animal or human. It is believed that my dogs caught the disease by eatting grass. It is much more common than most vets realize; however, the disease is often misdiagnosed as cancer or IBD/Irritable Bowel Disease. Often it takes vets too long to even consider pythiosis & the disease becomes advanced. I invite any reader; especially those in the SE quadrant of the U.S. to check out the facebook group page – pythiosis. I for one have had dogs beat this disease 3 of 4 times since learning of the serum in 2007.

  15. Gloria

    I am so sorry for your loss, but grateful your family had the blessing of Buster Blue’s love and friendship.

    “If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.” Will Rogers

  16. gigi

    so sorry for your loss. I have a dog that means everything to me and also foster dogs for a rescue organization. The loss you feel is hard but the love you’ve had makes it worthwhile. I hope your children will learn the lessons of life from your pup.

  17. Corky Hines

    Jaden, thanks for posting this and most likely saving others of us from this heartache. Our pets become family. Buster Blue’s life was short, but I pray you have consolation in knowing it was filled with love. Please know that you and your family are in my prayers for comfort, peace, and healing.

  18. Kristin

    Sorry to hear about your loss, but thanks for the “heads up” about this because I too live in the Gulf Coast Region, and the rain hasn’t let up much either. Prayers are with you and your family 🙂

  19. ERIKA

    Hugs to you. So very sorry for the loss of your sweet precious furbaby. Hope your able to teach your other dog not to drink from standing pond water etc.. Not to easy to do I am sure.

  20. Sandra

    So sorry for your loss. My condolences to your family. Thank you for posting about Buster’s illness. It may save many dogs from the same fate.

  21. Tabby

    I am SO very sorry to hear about Buster’s death. My dog passed away a month ago from what the vet is pretty sure will turn out to be Pythosis. If you’d like, you can read our journey with it here http://www.glitterinthequarter.com/the-story-of-milo/ and here http://www.glitterinthequarter.com/milo/

    We’re in New Orleans, so like you we’re surrounded by a lot of stagnant water. Because Milo was a stray, his constant struggle with sickness and weight loss was first put down to a stomach infection, then food allergies and IBS.

    Please try to take comfort in knowing that Buster wasn’t suffering for too long, and that by having surgery so early, your Vet was able to save him from possibly months of sickness and discomfort. Our Milo was on daily medication for almost a year because he wasn’t diagnosed with it until it was too late. By the time they thought to test for it, it was too late and he was bleeding internally.

    I try to look at as, with all strange diseases, someone or something has to die first so that others can be saved. I know that there will never be another animal with Pythosis at my vets that gets misdiagnosed, and I know that by sharing Milo’s story many others will be educated about it. It will never bring Milo back, and I will always wonder if there was something I could have done, but I know that he left a legacy that will save other animals, just as Buster Blue has done.

  22. laura

    So sorry Jaden. How lovely your tribute to Buster was, it brought tears to me eyes. I only met Buster once but he was a wonderful loving dog. I hope the boys are doing OK. hugs and love to you all.

  23. Jeannie

    Anyone who has had pets in their lives knows the loss is like that of any loving creature. Peace to you and your family during this time. Blue knows you love him.

  24. Michelle McCulloch

    Awww Im soo sorry for your loss of that beautiful baby dog….made me cry which is not an easy feat…God bless you and your family.

  25. Lisa

    So very sorry to hear of the loss of your dog Buster Blue. My heart goes out to you and your family.

  26. Nancy L

    I am so sorry for the loss of your sweet Buster Blue. Your pictures show a very happy puppy that was loved a lot! It was so weird that I was just looking at some pictures of our Kelby, who left us a little over a year ago and I was missing him so much. Then to read your blog and see that your sweet guy had passed away…really makes me appreciate the time we have them in our lives. I hope your other dog is doing OK.

  27. allison

    I’m so sorry about Buster Blue. When I saw your newsletter with his picture and dates, I just gasped. He was a beautiful animal and I know he was well loved and cared for. You and your family will be in my thoughts and prayers during this sad time. I bet he’s romping in heaven with my goofy Molly Baloo. xox

  28. teri pisha

    I want to say how sorry I am for your family.I have been in that situation a few times and it is so hard.You know things can happen when they get older but when they are so young it it knocks you off your feet.Thank=you for sharing his pictures,looked like a sweety.

  29. Jeanette

    I’m so sorry to hear about Buster Blue Jaden. I’ve never heard of Pythiosis – thanks so much for sharing what you learned. I’m surprised people who live in swampy areas are not made more aware of this since both animals and children like to splash in water.

  30. Janna

    I am so sorry for your loss. I remember when you posted the photo of Buster Blue when you first got him and thinking how beautiful he was. Your tribute to him is also beautiful. Dogs are not just dogs – they are part of our family and our hearts. Thinking of you and your family.

  31. Janie

    Please check the Facebook group page – Pythiosis : There is an Immunological serum available.

  32. Gail

    Jaden & Family, I’m so sorry for your loss of Buster Blue, an important member of your family. Also, thank you for sharing the information re Pythiosis which may prevent others from experiencing a devastating loss such as yours.

  33. Liz Allan

    Hi there: Was quite shocked to read of your family’s loss. Was looking forward to reading yet another great blog of yours along with your ” A+” recipes. My heart just sunk when I read of your devastating loss !! Adored all your pictures…not hard to tell “who” the camera fell in love with. Understandably so !! Sadly, I too have experienced the very same loss as you, several times over the years. Our loss is truly Heavens gain ! I wish you nothing less than the very best & may your pain lessen with time as I know your love “never will” ! Prayers & blessings are sent your way. Liz

  34. Dawn

    I’m sorry for your loss! Thank you for sharing the information about this rare disease. Buster has crossed the Rainbow Bridge & now runs & plays endlessly while he waits to be reunited with you all again.

  35. Kenna Rogers

    I am so, so sorry about your Buster Blue. I cannot imagine what your family must be going through. May there be many car fenders in heaven for him to chew on!! I loved that story!

  36. Stephanie Thomas

    My house of (dog-loving) kitties and I send or deepest condolences. What a gorgeous pup he was and although it was cut entirely too short, I hope it’s some consolation that Buster Blue had a happy life ..it’s clear by the pictures.
    Thank you for taking the time during your grief to educate others about this horrible condition.

  37. Carie

    I am so sorry for your loss. I lost my four legged BFF six months ago and know the pain you and your family must be feeling. The memories of Buster Blue will shine through the sadness in the days to come.

  38. Toni Haffey

    I feel your pain Jaden,I’ve lost 2pets myself also thinking it was just something they ate,to love them so and loose them like that is heartbreaking,so sorry for your loss,I can tell he was so loved,he was lucky to have had you in his life.

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