PERRY, Okla. -- Just by looking at 2-year-old Harley, you cannot tell he is battling a deadly infection.
“'Well obviously, Harley is my eater. We woke up one morning and he didn't want to eat breakfast," said Pam Keith, Harley’s owner.
Originally, Keith thought Harley had Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, a disease that is often passed to animals and humans through tick bites.
After a few trips to the vet, they still couldn't figure out what was wrong with him.
“So we took him home and he kept vomiting, and his stool started turning a dark brown, tarry-like substance,” Keith said.
As it turns out, Harley was showing all the symptoms of a deadly dog disease.
“And that's when we heard the dreadful word of Pythium,” Keith said.
In dogs, Pythiosis commonly attacks the gastrointestinal tract.
Surgery is usually the most effective treatment if the infection is in an area like the small intestine.
However, the prognosis is grim if surgery is not an option.
“The way that dogs get it is most commonly through a wound on their skin or potentially ingesting standing water that contains the organism, said Dr. Laura Nafe, OSU Assistant Professor of Veterinary Clinical Sciences.
Harley's owners say he loves to swim, so he may have ingested water that was contaminated.
The disease is more common in southern states like Louisiana and Texas, but it is something that local veterinarians see each year.
“I would say we see somewhere between three and six a year,” said Dr. Nafe.
Harley is the first case veterinarians at OSU are treating this year, but he isn't the only one. Officials say another case popped up in Tulsa following Harley's diagnosis.
Months after his diagnosis, Harley is beating the odds and Keith thanks his doctors for that.
“He's my bestie, he's my BFF,” she said.
Harley needs six month follow-up appointments to make sure he is completely out of the woods.
Keith urges other dog owners to be aware of the symptoms and get treatment immediately if they suspect something isn't right with their pet.