Valley fever is a serious condition that has the ability to affect people, dogs, cats and livestock throughout the Southwestern states but most commonly in Arizona. Our Madison vets discuss the effects of valley fever in dogs and what you can do to prevent it.
What Is Valley Fever in Dogs?
Coccidioidomycosis affects dogs, cats, livestock, and humans, known by various names such as Valley Fever, desert rheumatism, San Joaquin Valley Fever, and California disease.
Valley Fever stems from a pathogenic fungus, Coccidiodes immitis, thriving in specific desert climates within the United States, notably in the low desert regions of New Mexico, Texas, California, and most commonly, Arizona.
Central and Southern Arizona holds the highest recorded incidence of Valley Fever in dogs. In certain Arizona areas, an estimated 6-10% of dogs develop Valley Fever symptoms.
Our veterinarians at Best Friends Animal Hospital encounter Valley Fever in both dogs and cats, though it occurs less frequently in cats. Approximately for every 50 dogs with Valley Fever, our Madison veterinary team encounters 1 case in cats.
How Do Dogs Contract Valley Fever?
Pets develop Valley Fever when they inhale Coccidioides immitis fungal spores. These spores, once inside your dog's lungs, transform into spherules.
In dogs with a robust and healthy immune system, the body typically isolates the spherules, preventing the development of symptoms. This condition, where the pet carries the infection without showing signs of Valley Fever, is known as asymptomatic.
However, if your dog is very young, elderly, or has a weakened immune system, the spherules will continue growing until they rupture. This rupture releases numerous endospores, which can spread throughout your pet's lungs and other parts of its body, initiating a recurring cycle and leading to a progressively severe condition.
Is Valley Fever Contagious From One Dog to Another?
Valley Fever in dogs and cats does not spread among pets, and animals can only contract it by inhaling 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.
What Are the Treatment Options For Valley Fever in Dogs?
The treatment for dogs with Valley Fever typically involves administering antifungal medications like fluconazole (Diflucan®), itraconazole (Itrafungol® and Sporanox®), and ketoconazole (Nizoral®).
Treating Valley Fever in pets requires time and patience. Most pets will need to take antifungal medication for a minimum of 6 - 12 months. If the condition has spread throughout their body, there is a possibility that they will need lifelong antifungal medication.
What Are Some Ways That Valley Fever in Dogs Can Be Prevented?
People residing in the valley already face an elevated risk of contracting Valley Fever. To safeguard your dog against this disease, it's crucial to take proactive steps. Regular vet visits, providing a nutritious and balanced diet, and keeping your dog indoors during windy conditions can significantly contribute to their protection against Valley Fever. The better your dog's overall health, the stronger their immune system becomes, enhancing their ability to fend off infections and diseases.
When considering ways to protect your canine companion, there are several preventive measures you can implement, including:
- When the weather is windy or there are dust storms, you should keep your dog inside.
- If it is windy out, it would be beneficial to keep your windows closed to prevent 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 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.
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.