Man warns of strange, uncommon disease that can kill dogs

Published: Jan. 4, 2023 at 8:18 PM CST
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - If you or your dog live in the Midwest, you need to be aware of a potentially fatal disease called canine dysautonomia. A Pleasant Hill man is trying to raise awareness about the disease after he lost his dog to the illness.

Paul Miller’s dog, Boomer, was truly his best friend.

“Well, he was just a constant companion,” said Miller. “He was a Border Collie. They tend to be very loyal to one person. We have a farm and he went with me to do chores and check cows and everything.”

A little more than a week ago, he noticed Boomer was sluggish and vomiting. He took him to the vet, but it was too late. Boomer died.

Miller’s veterinarian informed him that the dog had canine dysautonomia, a disease Miller had never heard of.

“Dysautonomia has not been largely taught in medical curricula,” said Dr. Glen Cook.

Canine dysautonomia is a disorder of the nervous system. The disease is frequently misdiagnosed and treated as a respiratory or gastrointestinal condition due to the appearance of the initial symptoms.

“I see that time and time again with physician colleagues and other health professionals,” added Cook. “That’s one of the most rewarding parts of my job. I like to see that lightbulb go on and people realize and understand the physiology.”

“Later, I found out from my son that it is very centralized here in the Kansas City area,” Miller said.

Most cases of the disease occur in the Midwest. According to data collected by the University of Wyoming and Wyoming State Vet Lab in 2017, Kansas City and its surrounding areas reported the highest number of cases anywhere in the country.

“I’m 70 years old and it’s very emotional for me,” Miller said while reminiscing. “It doesn’t matter what age you are. If you get attached to an animal, it’s part of your life. It’s hard. I just want people to be aware of this disease.”

Even though uncommon and often fatal, vets say early detection can increase the chance of survival.

Doctors say to be on the lookout for symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea and thick nasal discharge.