Let’s start with a bit on information about fungus. Fungus is part of a large group of organisms, the kingdom Fungi, which include molds, yeast and fungus such as mushrooms. Fungi have a variety of shapes and sizes from the one-celled bacteria to flat molds to shapely mushrooms. Interesting factoid: Unlike plants whose cell walls are comprised of cellulose, fungal cell walls are chitin which is in the exoskeletons of insects. (Wikipedia)The lifecycle of fungi is complicated, so this is the FAQ version. What we normally think of as mushrooms are called the fruiting bodies which produce spores as a means of propagating. For example, has your human ever opened up a loaf of bread only to find the green and black mold in it? They pull the bread out, stuff flies in the air and you all choke. They have let bread mold spores loose into the air. Probably my favorite example is the release of spores from the mushroom known as the puffball. Mom recalls walking in the woods and stomping on puffballs. This YouTube video is a good example of how fungus can aerosolize spores. (As a side note, puffballs are a great delicacy if you catch them when they are white and firm.) Not all spores are easily dispersed by air currents. Spores can be picked up by living beings such as birds, insects and humans, and are then transported to other locations.
Once the spores land, there are two growth requirements so that they can begin to grow: water and nutrients. Water is essential for hydrating the spore. The nutrient source depends on the organism. Mushrooms have an enzyme that breaks down cellulose, so that is why you see them in forests around dead trees and other plant material. Other fungi prefer to grow on bird and bat poo.
The fungi that most often induce pneumonia are ones that grow on poo. Dogs are more susceptible to fungal pneumonia than cats. However, if any anipal is dehydrated and/or malnourished, their immune system is compromised and can get any disease more easily. Since Cheshire hung out around the pier and beam foundation of the house and was malnourished, it is assumed that he inhaled the spores related to poo-loving fungi and contracted fungal pneumonia. (Pet MD)
It is very difficult to treat a fungal disease. Many drugs that attack fungal cells can also attach human cells. Due to this, the fungicides must be targeted more toward fungi. Treatment period is at a minimum of two months, or longer depending on the offending organism. Pet MD suggests that less than 70% of anipals with fungal pneumonia are expected to respond to treatment.
Cheshire is almost through his year-long course of treatment and has responded well. I am constantly amazed at the complexities of life – fungi spores grew on poo which Cheshire inhaled and got pneumonia. On second thought, maybe life isn’t all that complex. As Mike Rowe on Dirty Jobs would say, it’s all about poo.