Valley Fever is a fungal disease that is endemic in the desert Southwest. It’s caused by the fungal spores Coccidioidomycosis that live in the desert soil. It is common for the spores to be disrupted and aerosolized in the summer during monsoon season. The valley had a somewhat dry but dusty monsoon season that puts the valley residents and pets at a possibly higher risk this year for contracting Valley Fever. The spores are breathed into the lungs and then after weeks to months symptoms may begin. Some pets clear out the spores before ever becoming ill, but others can become very sick.
The most common early symptoms of primary pulmonary Valley Fever in dogs are:
Some or all of these symptoms may be present as a result of infection in the lungs. As the infection progresses, dogs can develop pneumonia that is visible on x-rays. Sometimes the coughing is caused by pressure of swollen lymph nodes near the heart pressing on the dog's windpipe and irritating it. These dogs often have a dry, hacking or honking kind of cough and the swollen lymph nodes can be seen on x-rays.
When the infection spreads outside the lungs, it causes disseminated disease. The most common symptom of disseminated disease in dogs is lameness; the fungus has a predilection for infecting bones of the legs in dogs. However, Valley Fever can occur in almost any organ of dogs. Signs of disseminated Valley Fever can include:
Sometimes a dog will not have any signs of a primary infection in the lungs, such as coughing, but will only develop symptoms of disseminated disease, e.g., lameness, seizures. Very few of the signs of Valley Fever are specific to this disease alone and your veterinarian will do tests to determine that your dog's illness is Valley Fever and to rule out other causes.
Valley Fever is not contagious from dog to dog, or dog to human, but if one dog in your household has Valley Fever, it’s likely that your other dogs have been exposed. Cats can get Valley Fever also, but it’s much more difficult for cats to get it, and usually they only contract it in skin sores from the soil. Outdoor cats are at higher risk of contracting the infection.
If you have any concern your dog might have Valley Fever, schedule an appointment right away for a physical exam and to discuss testing.
Living in the valley is automatically a risk for contracting Valley Fever, but there are some things you can do to help your dog not pick it up. Bring them inside during a dust storm and keep them healthy by feeding good quality food and visiting the veterinarian regularly. A healthy pet will have a healthier immune system and may be more likely to fight off the disease.
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