Valley fever can harm people, dogs, cats, and livestock, and it's a serious condition. Our Louisa vets discuss the effects of valley fever in dogs and what you can do to prevent it.
What Is Valley Fever in Dogs?
Coccidioidomycosis, also known as Valley Fever, is a condition that affects dogs, cats, livestock, and people. It's caused by a fungus called Coccidioides immitis, which thrives in certain desert regions of the United States.
Central and Southern Arizona are believed to have the highest incidence of Valley Fever in dogs. In certain parts of Arizona, it is estimated that 6-10% of dogs will develop symptoms of Valley Fever.
Our vets at Tri-County Animal Clinic see Valley Fever in both dogs and cats, although less frequently in cats. It is estimated that for about every 50 dogs with Valley Fever, our Louisa vets will see 1 case in cats.
How Do Dogs Contract Valley Fever?
Pets can get Valley Fever when they breathe in certain fungal spores. In dogs, these spores can turn into round structures inside their lungs.
In dogs with a strong and healthy immune system, the body can 'wall off' the spherules, preventing symptoms from developing. This means that the pet may have the condition but have no symptoms of Valley Fever, known as asymptomatic.
But if a dog is very young, old, or has a weak immune system, these structures will keep growing until they burst. When they burst, they release many tiny spores that can spread in the lungs and other body parts, worsening the condition.
Is Valley Fever Contagious From One Dog to Another?
Valley Fever in dogs and cats is not contagious between pets and can only be contracted through the inhalation of spores.
What Are The Symptoms of Valley Fever in Dogs?
In the early stages, when the spherules are contained within the lungs, symptoms of Valley Fever in dogs typically include:
- Dry cough
- Decreased appetite
- Painful swollen joints
- Persistent fever
- Weight loss
- Eye inflammation
In some very rare severe 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 quickly as possible to avoid serious health complications.
What Are the Treatment Options For Valley Fever in Dogs?
Treating dogs with Valley Fever will typically include an anti-fungal medication such as fluconazole (Diflucan®) or itraconazole (Itrafungol® and Sporanox®). Dogs may also be treated with ketoconazole (Nizoral®).
Treatment of Valley Fever in pets takes time. Most pets will remain on anti-fungal medication for a minimum of 6 - 12 months, but if the condition has spread throughout their body, there is a chance that they will need to remain on anti-fungal medications for life.
What Are Some Ways That Valley Fever in Dogs Can Be Prevented?
Living in the valley makes people more likely to get Valley Fever. Ensuring that you bring your dog in for routine vet visits, feed them a healthy and complete diet, and keep them inside when it gets windy can all go a long way toward protecting them against Valley Fever. The healthier your dog is, the stronger their immune system will be and the more likely they will be able to fight off infections and diseases.
When it comes to keeping your dog safe, you can take some steps like:
- When the weather is windy or if there are dust storms, then you should keep your dog inside.
- If it is windy out, then it would be beneficial to keep your windows closed to keep the spores from entering your home.
- If you have recently experienced rain, keeping your dog from playing outside may be a good idea.
- Utilizing grass, gravel, or other dust-controlling ground covers in your yard can help prevent the spores from becoming airborne.
- Provide your dog with an air filtration mask.
What is the Prognosis For Dogs That Contract Valley Fever?
- When Valley Fever is found and treated in its early stages, most dogs get better. However, if dogs are diagnosed with Valley Fever after it has already spread to other parts of their body, it can be harder to treat, and sometimes it can even be life-threatening.