Leigh's Lost and Found: a local dog survives a rare and often fatal canine disease

In our Leigh's Lost and Found today, a warning about a rare, often deadly canine disease popping up more and more in Missouri.

It's called Canine Dysautonomia. It can severely affect a dog's nervous system and the survival rate is not good. But at least one local dog has beaten the odds and his owner wants to warn others what to watch out for.

Dandee the Corgi is lucky to even be here to get a check up from Dr. Sean Hufham at Best Friends Animal Hospital in Ozark.

"She presented with her first symptoms when she was three years old."

Dandee's mom Dana Neuenschwander, had never heard of Canine Dysautonomia until Dandee started getting sick.

"Mainly GI stuff, regurgitating and vomiting."

Dr. Sean says, "it's a devastating disease. It can be in any breed. It's really more prevalent here in the Midwest."

Dana did some investigating online, joining the Canine Dysautonomia support network on Facebook. She was disheartened to see pictures and videos of so many affected dogs that didn't make it.

"Pretty devastating. I went online as most pet parents would to do research and all I was seeing was deceased dogs."

Dr. Sean says the disease is "mostly fatal, about 90% mortality rate. Really, they go down quite quickly. Most people are forced with the choice of euthanasia."

Dana did not make that choice. Battling cancer herself at the time, she decided they would fight. She brought Dandee to Best Friends for supportive care and a long term plan.

Symptoms can be severe like tremors and trouble breathing but Dandee's were thankfully on the mild side.

"It was a slow go. It was about a month before we saw her take a turn for the better. It was a lot of hand feeding, upright feeding. It was cleaning up her nose from all the crustiness and her eyelids were turned up. We took shifts to take care of her."

Five years later, Dandee has minor eye issues but that's it. Dana is now sharing her story and the latest research from the University of Wyoming, in the hopes of saving even more dogs from a disease that has no verified cause or treatment.

"It's not like we're treating something with antibiotics. It continues to progress regardless of the treatment and it's kind of up to luck on how bad does the disease get and are they able to overcome it through that supportive care which can last months and months."

Dana says, "with faith, Dandee and I made it through."

Dr. Sean says this disease mostly affects younger dogs living in rural areas that spend most of their time outside, so if you can keep your dogs inside as much as possible, that could help protect them.

For more information about Canine Dysautonomia, just check out the links I've included in this story to the latest research and to the support and awareness facebook page.