Our Huntersville vets see Valley Fever in dogs that have spent time in the low desert regions of the southwestern United States. Although healthy adult dogs may experience no symptoms of valley fever, puppies, senior dogs and dogs with a compromised immune system may experience symptoms ranging from coughing to painful joints.
What is valley fever in dogs?
Coccidioidomycosis is a condition that goes by a number of different names including valley fever, desert rheumatism, San Joaquin valley fever, and California disease.
This condition can be seen in both dogs and people and is caused by a fungus called Coccidiodes immitis that thrives in the soil of particular desert areas. In the US Coccidiodes immitis is commonly found in the low desert regions of Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Texas.
How is valley fever spread?
Valley fever is spread through the inhalation of Coccidiodes immitis (fungal) spores. Once the spores have been inhaled by your pooch they grow into spherules within the animal's lungs.
If your dog has a strong and healthy immune system the body will 'wall off' the spherules and your pup will not develop any symptoms of valley fever (asymptomatic).
On the other hand, if your pup is very young, old, or has a compromised immune system the spherules will continue to grow until they eventually burst, releasing hundreds of endospores which can spread throughout the lungs and other parts of your dog's body where the cycle will repeat itself.
Is valley fever contagious in dogs?
Valley fever in dogs is not contagious between dogs or able to jump from dogs to people. The condition develops when the fungal spores are inhaled.
How common is valley fever in dogs?
In the US, central and southern Arizona are believed to have the highest incidence of valley fever. In fact, some counties in Arizona estimate that 6-10% of local dogs will develop symptoms of valley fever over their lifetime.
What are the signs of valley fever in dogs?
In the early stages, when the spherules are contained within the lungs, symptoms of valley fever can include lack of energy, fever, dry cough, and decreased appetite.
Once the fungal spores have reached other parts of your pup's body more diverse symptoms may appear such as painful swollen joints, persistent fever, weight loss, eye inflammation, and blindness. In some very rare cases, if the fungus reaches the brain, valley fever can result in seizures.
If your dog is displaying symptoms of valley fever it is essential to seek veterinary care as soon as possible in order to avoid serious health complications.
Can valley fever in dogs be cured?
When diagnosed and treated early, many dogs recover well from valley fever. Dogs diagnosed with valley fever after the disease has spread to other parts of the body are more challenging to treat, and in some cases the disease becomes life-threatening.
How is valley fever in dogs treated?
In most cases, antifungal medications are used to treat valley fever in dogs. How long your dog will need to take these medications will depend upon the severity of your pup's condition.
Typically antifungal medications will need to be administered for 6-12 months, with an improvement in symptoms often being seen within a couple of weeks. When valley fever has spread to other parts of the body, your dog may need to continue taking antifungal medications for life.
Some of the most common antifungal medications used to treat valley fever in dogs include ketoconazole (Nizoral®), itraconazole (Itrafungol® and Sporanox®), and fluconazole (Diflucan®).
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.