What Is Valley Fever?
Valley Fever is a fungal infection caused by spores called Coccidioides. These spores grow in soils found mostly in the southwestern part of the U.S., parts of Mexico, Central America, and South America. The fungus lives where there is little rainfall and high temperatures. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that around 10,000 cases are reported in the United States each year, mostly from Arizona and California.
The spores need to be inhaled in order to get the infection. This happens when dirt is disturbed causing the spores to become airborne. Therefore, Valley Fever can’t be spread from person to person, dog to dog, or dog to person.
There are a lot of dust storms in the southwest leading to a greater chance of breathing in the spores and getting an infection. Haboobs are giant dust storms that produce a huge wall of dust that can be thousands of feet high and hundreds of miles wide. They are the result of a down-burst of air that is forced forward by the front of a thunderstorm.
New construction in the desert is another way that spores become airborne.
Why Do Dogs Get The Infection?
Dogs like to sniff and dig in the dirt. If the fungal spores are present, they have a good chance of breathing the spores into their lungs.
What Are the Symptoms In Dogs?
Sometimes it can take weeks after exposure to the spores before symptoms appear. However, the spores can be dormant in a dog’s body for several years before symptoms appear. Dogs develop a fever, get lethargic, and don’t want to eat. However, usually a dog’s immune system is able to fight off the infection within a few weeks or so.
Having a harsh dry cough is usually the symptom that brings dogs to the doctor. The coughing is often misdiagnosed as Kennel Cough. Therefore, it is very important to tell the vet doctor if the dog has been exposed to a lot of dust. Sometimes people visiting the southwest go home before their dog develops symptoms. On the contrary, many vet doctors outside of the southwest, don’t usually see Valley Fever, so they may miss the diagnosis. As a result, make sure to disclose all travel events in the southwest.
As the infection spreads to other parts of the body, symptoms begin to show up such as lameness (painful muscles and joints). Also, skin abscesses and swollen lymph nodes can develop. In addition, eye infections and blindness can occur. Seizures caused by the spores invading the brain can happen. Heart failure is a possibility.
Meet Sweetie. She lost an eye due to complications of Valley Fever.
How Do You Test For Valley Fever?
A Vet doctor will do a test called a “titer” to see if the dog has been exposed to the spores. The doctor will probably do an x-ray of the chest and blood work. All of this will be considered in making a diagnosis.
What is the Treatment For Dogs?
The vet doctor will give the dog an anti-fungal medication that stops the growth of the spores. This will allow the dog’s immune system a chance to fight off the infection. The dog may get medication for pain, dehydration, and weight loss. Dogs need to be on medication to treat Valley Fever for a long time (6 months to a year and sometimes longer). Some dogs need to be on medication for the rest of their lives due to relapses. Most of the dogs with Valley Fever survive. Please check with your vet doctor to learn specific details about the diagnosis and treatment of Valley Fever.
Morning Mutts Café is concerned about Valley Fever as we are based in Arizona where there is a lot of dogs who get the infection.