ALBUQUERK, NM – At least one Albuquerque dog has died of a rare bacterial disease. Now his owner, through her grief, wants you to know what happened, so as not to go through the same grief.
Freak was much more than a pet for Linda Stallings.
“She wasn’t just important to us, she was a family member,” Stallings said.
This was also known as 9-year-old Bassett Griffon Vinden.
“When she came in, she rolled over, so she could rub her stomach because she just loves people,” Stallings said.
That’s why, when Whimsy started vomiting in late July, Stallings wasted no time in getting her to a vet.
“He checked her out and said, ‘She’s got a little water in her stomach,'” Stallings said. “He said it’s not rare, but it’s very uncomfortable for the dog.”
The freak got better with antibiotics but he went back to the vet clinic a few weeks later – now he’s coughing up blood.
‘It was heartbreaking.’ ‘I didn’t go see her,’ said Stallings, ‘because she didn’t want us to leave.’
The vets kept her on oxygen for five days, and as they searched for answers, Jar Stallings revealed that Whimsy wasn’t alone.
“One of her horses got very sick,” said Stallings.
The neighbor’s dog’s stomach was also full of water. Hours later, a neighbor called and told Stallings that her dog had died.
“She had a lot of water in her stomach. He said it looked like she got hit by a car,” Stallings said.
Stalings then learned that her neighbor had found several dead rabbits in her yard a few days earlier.
“I found out they have what they call a rabbit – they can get rabbit fever, and that can cause them to die,” she said.
But rabbit fever isn’t something vets test often
“I have been working in Albuquerque for 18 and a half years as a veterinarian. I have never actually diagnosed a case,” said Dr. Nicholas Hopkins, a veterinarian at VCA Animal Hospital.
Rabbit fever, otherwise known as tularemia, is a highly contagious bacteria that is spread mostly by rabbits, but experts say most animals can get it even humans.
The Whimsy vet ordered a test kit from the state and the result was positive.
“He packed her in all sorts of drugs—she came home with six. Well, we kept her alive for a few weeks,” Stallings said.
Eventually, Whimsy’s lungs filled with fluid and Stallings had to say goodbye.
“We just ruthlessly killed her then and there, and it was so sad. I mean, it’s our fur baby, you know, it was so sad.”
Vets say antibiotics can treat rabbit fever, but pet owners need to act fast. They say pet owners need to look out for vomiting, diarrhea, and loss of energy.
Now, Stallings hopes her pain will lead to fewer families going through, too.
“I just want to stop crying. I haven’t stopped crying since it happened,” Stallings said. “I just want people to be aware.”
KOB 4 has contacted the New Mexico Department of Health about rabbit fever.
A spokesperson said four cases have been reported this year, including three dogs. He recommends that pet owners keep up with flea and tick medications, and prevent pets from roaming or hunting outside.
Stallings says many of her neighbors have already screened their pets for rabbit fever.
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