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How to Prevent Valley Fever in Dogs

Valley Fever is a fungal infection that can affect dogs in dry, desert-like areas. Here, our Bedford vets discuss the effect of Valley Fever on dogs, how it is spread, the treatment options and how you can prevent this infection.

What is Valley Fever in dogs?

Coccidioidomycosis is a condition seen in dogs, cats, livestock, and people that goes by several different names including Valley Fever, desert rheumatism, San Joaquin Valley Fever, and California disease. 

Valley fever is caused by a pathogenic fungus called Coccidiodes immitis that lives in the soil and thrives in particular desert climates. In the US Coccidiodes immitis can be found in the low desert regions of New Mexico, Texas, California, and most commonly in Arizona.

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. 

How is Valley Fever transmitted?

Pets develop Valley Fever when they breathe in Coccidiodes immitis fungal spores. When your dog inhales the spores they grow into spherules within the pet's lungs.

In dogs that have a strong and healthy immune system, the body is typically able to '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.

If however your dog is very young, old, or has a compromised immune system the spherules will continue to grow until they eventually burst, releasing hundreds of endospores that can spread throughout the lungs and other parts of your pet's body where the cycle will begin again and the condition will become increasingly severe.

Is Valley Fever contagious?

The good news is that Valley Fever cannot be spread from one pet to another. This infection can only occur with the direct inhalation of the spores.

What are the symptoms of Valley Fever in dogs?

In the early stages, when the spherules (spherical structure containing the spores) are contained within the lungs, symptoms of Valley Fever in dogs typically include:

  • Fever
  • Dry cough
  • Decreased appetite
  • Lethargy

Once the fungal spores have reached other parts of your dog's body the signs of Valley Fever in dogs may become more severe and could include:

  • Painful swollen joints
  • Persistent fever
  • Weight loss
  • Eye inflammation
  • Blindness

If the fungus that causes Valley Fever reaches the brain of your dog, they may experience 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?

The treatment for 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®).

During treatment, the main factor will be time. There is no quick fix for this infection. Most pets will remain on antifungal 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 antifungal medications for life. 

How to Prevent Valley Fever in Dogs

Dogs that live in the dry areas mentioned above will have an increased risk of contracting 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 along with many other medical conditions.

Some straightforward ways that you can help prevent Valley Fever in dogs include:

  • Keep your dog inside when it is very windy or if a dust storm is expected.
  • Close your windows on windy days to keep the spores from entering your home.
  • Refrain from allowing your dog to play outside after it has been raining.
  • Install dust-controlling ground covers like grass or gravel can help prevent the spores from becoming airborne.
  • Provide your dog with an air filtration mask to wear when outdoors.

What is the prognosis for dogs who have Valley Fever?

Many dogs recover from Valley Fever and show no signs of permanent complications. 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. 

Do you live in or have you recently visited a dry area? Is your dog showing the symptoms associated with Valley Fever? Contact our team at Fine Animal Hospital to schedule an examination.

We're accepting new patients! Book your pet's first appointment today.

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