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Pup’s Unusual Fungus Causes Seizures

By Christy True
published: April 3, 2023 • 3 min. read
Sonny, a Cavalier King Charles spaniel

Diagnosis: Seizures/fungus
Cost: $27,375 | Healthy Paws reimbursed: $21,653
Coverage options:  80 percent reimbursement | $250 deductible

Pet parents Laura and Jack adopted Sonny, a Cavalier King Charles spaniel, when he was four months old, and they were immediately taken by his lively spirit and personality. 

“Sonny immediately won our hearts and those of everyone in our family. So much so, that when his littermate sister Stella needed to be re-homed at six months, we took her in immediately,” Laura wrote. “He lives the best life and enjoys everything including chasing chipmunks, squirrels and even butterflies!”  

Sonny and Stella, Cavalier King Charles spaniels

When they adopted him, several vets examined him and deemed him a healthy pup. But in August 2019, when Sonny was around ten months old, he suffered a mild seizure after a busy, hot day playing with Laura’s grandkids.

Laura took him to the vet, where they took blood work and found everything to be normal except for a mild urinary tract infection (UTI). He was treated with antibiotics and sent home. The vet said that he might have just overheated, and to wait and see.

Then, a few months later, Sonny experienced a cluster seizure event, meaning multiple seizures in a short time, sending them back to the emergency hospital.

The hospital admitted Sonny overnight and got his seizures under control. In the morning, Laura and Jack took him to a neurologist. The vet advised magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) because she suspected a condition called syringomyelia, which causes fluid-filled cavities to develop in the spinal cord. Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and other toy breeds are predisposed to the ailment.

Brain scan is inconclusive; surgery recommended

The MRI showed something in his brain that looked like vascular bleeding, but the vet couldn’t be sure.

“This was devastating to hear.  We really thought this was the end for our poor puppy,” Laura said.

The neurologist recommended surgery because the bleed was in an operable location, and Sonny’s young age meant he had a good chance of recovery. A neurosurgeon experienced with the type of surgery traveled from out of state to operate.  

Sonny, a Cavalier King Charles spaniel, with a scar on his head.

During the surgery, they learned the lesion on Sonny’s brain was a fungus that is often fatal once it infects a major organ – usually the brain, lung or heart. Often it is not detected until it’s too late.  The surgeon removed the fungus, and a second MRI showed good healing and no signs of the infection spreading.

Sonny recovered quickly from the surgery and was placed on a combination of anti-seizure and anti-fungal medications, which he still takes today. He still suffers seizures, but they are mild and infrequent, Laura said. Since then, he underwent an experimental treatment for the fungal infection, receives compounded meds made especially for him, and gets rechecked regularly with a neurologist and neurosurgeon.  

Laura said Sonny’s ordeal is being documented for a veterinary medical publication because not much is known about the fungus, which can also affect humans.


How is Sunny doing today?

Four years later, Sonny is doing well with maintenance medications. Laura and Jack call him “Sonny the Wonder Pup” because of all he endured and survived.

“He is otherwise a healthy, happy pup living the good life!  A life made easier without the burden of enormous medical bills for his ‘pawrents,’” Laura wrote. “He looks great, and you would never know what he went through.  He lives in the now, and we try to do the same.“ 

How pet insurance helped

Laura truly did her research when she adopted Sonny and was considering pet insurance. She first asked about common health issues for Cavaliers and found they are prone to luxating patellas, cataracts and heart conditions. Knowing these are all treatable but costly, Laura decided on Healthy Paws because it has no annual or lifetime caps on the dollar amount of reimbursements.

Sonny, a Cavalier King Charles spaniel.

“We could use any vet and you covered congenital or hereditary conditions.  This seemed to fit the issues we might be faced with in the future. We decided to go with you for those reasons.  So thankful we did,” Laura wrote. “The way we submit the claim by sending a picture of the invoice and the quick reimbursement has definitely helped us in this journey.”

The lack of limits on payouts and ease of filing claims has paid off for Laura and Jack, as they have filed 120 claims for Sonny, for a total of $37,010 ($28,608 reimbursed) to date. Besides the fungus, that included claims for gastritis, an ear infection, and skin issues. Laura said without insurance, they may not have opted for some treatments, and they would be paying off the bills for years.

“I honestly believe the fact that we got the Healthy Paws insurance right away, which enabled us to move ahead with the testing, surgery and follow-up care, has totally helped his recovery,” she added.

The claim scenarios described here are intended to show the types of situations that may result in claims. These scenarios should not be compared to any other claim. Whether or to what extent a particular loss is covered depends on the facts and circumstances of the loss, the terms and conditions of the policy as issued and applicable law.

Insured persons providing testimonials in this report have not received compensation for their statements.

Christy True and Tomas
By Christy True

Christy has been writing about pets for Healthy Paws for 21 dog years. She previously worked in journalism, hence her penchant for writing about offbeat animal studies and the latest viral pet trends. She has been owned by several dogs, and right now, Tomas, a Mexican street dog rescue, is staring at her because he wants a walk. Outside of work, she can usually be found sliding down a mountain near her home in Bend, Ore.

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