URBANA — When Laurie Brewer first saw Roxy, a black Labrador dog with a chronic runny nose, it was love at first sight.
A Maryland veterinarian, Brewer had her first contact with this sick dog when Roxy's former owners brought her in to be seen for chronic nasal drainage and sneezing.
They tried an antibiotic for a couple of weeks, but when it didn't work, "they were going to euthanize her strictly due to cost concerns," Brewer said.
Euthanize this lovable dog? Not if Brewer could help it.
"I fell in love with her the first time I saw her," she recalls.
She arranged with the owners to adopt Roxy and took her home.
And did this dog need care.
Roxy had been an "outdoor dog," Brewer said, and she was thin and had Lyme disease and intestinal parasites. And she had never had any prior veterinary care.
"She had multiple stressors on her body," Brewer said.
Roxy's most serious health issue was the source of her sneezing and sinus drainage — a serious fungal infection called aspergillosis that was eating away at her sinuses and nasal cavity.
Brewer first made two trips with Roxy to Ohio State University, but treatment there wasn't successful. Experts told Brewer Roxy's infection was the worst they had ever seen, and they weren't comfortable continuing treatment, she said.
Her next step was to locate a veterinary expert at the University of Illinois, Dr. Brendan McKiernan, and to make the 700-mile trip there with Roxy.
And that's when this dog got her next big break in life.
Roxy underwent her first treatment in Urbana in early October, and returned for a follow-up procedure this past Monday. By the time she was heading for home later Tuesday, this dog was feeling pretty good, Brewer said.
"She's great. We just stopped for a snack, and now she's munching on her favorite chew bone in the back seat," she said.
They plan to return in November for a follow-up appointment, but Roxy's specialists — McKiernan, who is board certified in small animal internal medicine, and Dr. Amy Kubier, the College of Veterinary Medicine's internal medicine chief resident — say Roxy's outlook for a healthy life now is good.
McKiernan pioneered the procedure giving Roxy a second chance: Earlier in October, he removed as much of the fungus as he could and then applied a topical treatment. In the second procedure, Kubier went in and removed the bone debris from inside Roxy's nose.
The two vets said it's possible Roxy may continue to have a little drainage in the future, but despite what was removed from inside her nose, she should continue to have some remaining sense of smell.
Aspergillosis is picked up in the environment, but dogs in a weakened health state are more vulnerable to it, Brewer said.
It can be cured in about 90 percent of dogs, Kubier said.
"This was one of the most severe cases we've ever seen," Kubier said, "but we're hopeful she'll have a good quality of life."
Brewer said she could already see eating and energy improvements in Roxy after the first treatment.
"She's just a happy dog, and she seems to feel really good," she said.
And considering she once lived her life outdoors, Roxy has turned out be a definite "people dog," Brewer said.
"She moved right into the house like she's always been there," she added. "She definitely loves to go outside, but she also likes having a nice, comfy bed, preferably the couch."