Charlie, who goes by the username @charlie.vet.nurse on TikTok, posted a video of a four-year-old Great Pyrenees that was sitting in the emergency veterinary surgery office. She listed the dog’s symptoms and what she looked like, asking viewers to comment what they thought the dog’s diagnosis would be.
The Great Pyrnees was experiencing lethargy that had lasted at least 24 hours, in addition to what Charlie described as “ears flapping in the wind but with NO wind”. The vet then showed how the dog’s ears were twitching while she was laying down, similar to the way a dog’s ears would flap if they were hanging their head outside a car window.
Since it was posted on 16 August, the TikTok has been viewed more than 100,000 times. Some commenters simply wanted to know if the dog ultimately recovered, while others did some research and guessed what condition the dog might’ve had.
“Something with tick borne disease and anemia... Makes me wonder about ehrlichiosis?? (I had to look up diseases lol),” one commenter guessed. “Macadamia nut ingestion? Ears are a response to tremors and anemia,” another person commented.
One person did comment the correct guess, which was babesia gibsoni. In Charlie’s follow-up video posted on 17 August, sshe said her team ran a blood smear - a sample of blood from the ear looked at under a microscope - in order to diagnose the dog’s illness. According to the vet, this test is “a MUST” in Oklahoma “due to the sheer amount of tick borne and fungal disease.”
In the video’s caption, Charlie explained that babesia gibsoni was causing the dog’s “bilateral focal auricular dyskinesia.” Bilateral focal auricular dyskinesia is a term used to describe abnormal movements of either the facial or ear-related muscles on the sides of the face.
Dr Antonio DeMarco, a Kansas City-based vet and the chief medical and mentorship officer at GoodVets, explained in an interview with Newsweek that he agreed with Charlie’s diagnosis. "Babesia appears to be the correct diagnosis. Babesia are protozoans - single-celled parasites - that attack red blood cells," he said.
DeMarco explained that babesia targets red blood cells or RBCs, adding: “These RBC’s can rupture or die, causing significant anemia.”
“The RBCs can also cause small blockages in the tiniest of blood vessels, called capillaries. When this occurs, the local tissue will start slowly dying,” he continued. “This likely occurred in the parts of the brain that were responsible for the function of the muscle fasciculations in the ear.”
While many commenters found the ear flapping to be “cute”, DeMarco said it could lead to irreparable damage. “If left untreated, it can and likely will lead to death,” he said. “Once brain involvement takes place, there is a guarded prognosis. This means there is potential for long-term brain damage or the potential for death.”
In the TikTok’s caption, Charlie explained that because of the quick diagnosis, they were able to quickly give the dog antibiotics. In response to a comment, she wrote that the dog “responded favourably to treatment and made a full recovery.”