What is Valley Fever?
Valley Fever is caused by Coccidioides immitis, a soil-dwelling fungus. An infection can occur when these tiny seeds or spores become windborne and eventually get inhaled into the lungs.
How Does the Climate Relate to Valley Fever?
When it is dry in Arizona, Coccidioides immitis does not necessarily thrive, but remains viable though dormant during its arthroconidia lifecycle phase. However, when the monsoon season returns, the arthroconidia begin to germinate and then multiply to a higher density than usual. As the dust storms kick up, so do the spores, and this is when infection can occur. We typically see the most Valley Fever cases during and soon after the monsoon season (right now!).
How Does Valley Fever Affect Pets?
Since dogs often go on trips, rides and other adventures with their humans, they are the most susceptible pet to infection from Valley Fever. In Arizona, dog owners spend hundreds to thousands of dollars every year when diagnosing, treating and caring for canines with Valley Fever. However, other animals such as cats, llamas and horses can also get infected wherever the fungus can be found.
For dogs, approximately 70 percent of them that inhale Valley Fever spores can control them quickly and naturally by the strength of their own immune systems. These dogs are asymptomatic and usually immune to the infection.
What Are the Symptoms of Valley Fever?
Early symptoms of valley fever in dogs may include:
· Weight loss
· Lack of energy
· Lack of appetite
How Are Dogs with Valley Fever Treated?
Dogs who are ill from Valley Fever will be seen by a veterinarian and will need treatment with antifungal medication. The medication process is quite extensive, with care averaging from 6–12 months. Oral antifungal medication, usually given as twice daily pills or capsules, is the common treatment for Valley Fever.
There are also supportive treatments for sick dogs, which include cough suppressants, pain and fever relief, nutritional support and even hospitalization. With adequate antifungal therapy, most dogs do recover, especially if they are diagnosed early.
How Can I Prevent My Dog from Getting Valley Fever?
Thankfully, most dogs will naturally fight off the exposure to Valley Fever with their own immune system. However, beyond that, there isn’t a definitive way to prevent your pets from contracting Valley Fever. You may be able to reduce the likelihood of exposure and subsequent infection by preventing your dog from doing activities that generate dust. These include:
· Discourage or prevent digging
· Discourage or prevent sniffing around in the dirt
· Keeping dogs more indoors than outdoors
Is your dog suffering from the symptoms above, or do you have any additional questions on treating, diagnosing and preventing Valley Fever? If so, please call Family VetCare at our following locations: