Valley fever in dogs is caused by a fungus that lives in the soil of the low desert regions of Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and California. Healthy dogs that inhale this fungus may remain asymptomatic, but senior dogs, puppies and immune-compromised dogs can show a range of symptoms from respiratory issues to painful joints. Our Tucson vets explain more.
How does Valley Fever progress?
Dogs develop Valley fever when they inhale Coccidioides immitis (fungal) spores which live in the soil of some areas of Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and California. Once the spores have been inhaled by your dog they settle in the lungs and begin to grow into spherules
When a dog has a robust immune system their body is able to isolate the spherules and contain the condition so that the disease is prevented from becoming more severe and no symptoms occur.
In elderly dogs, puppies, and dogs with poor immune health the spherules will continue to grow within the pet's lungs until they burst, releasing hundreds of endospores which then spread throughout the lungs and other parts of the pet's body where they will grow and burst and continue the cycle.
Valley fever in dogs is not contagious between dogs and only occurs if Coccidioides immitis spores are inhaled.
Is Valley Fever in dogs common?
In certain regions of the US where Coccidioides immitis fungus is abundant Valley Fever is very common in dogs. Arizona is a particular hot spot for this disease. It is estimated that 6-10% of dogs will develop symptoms of valley fever in their lifetime.
How do you know if your dog has Valley Fever?
In the early stages of the condition, when the spherules are contained within your pet's lungs, symptoms of valley fever include fever, dry cough, reduced appetite and lack of energy.
If the spherules within the lungs burst and spread to other parts of your dog's body more wide-ranging symptoms can appear such as painful swollen joints, persistent fever, weight loss, eye inflammation, and blindness. Although it's rare, in some cases the spherules reach the brain and result in seizures.
If your dog has any of the symptoms of Valley Fever listed above it's important to seek veterinary care as quickly as possible in order to avoid more severe health complications as the disease continues to progress.
Can Valley Fever in dogs be cured?
Most dogs that are diagnosed and treated early, recover well. Dogs diagnosed with Valley Fever after the disease has begun to spread to other parts of the body are much more difficult to treat effectively. Valley Fever can become life-threatening if left untreated.
What is the treatment for valley fever in dogs?
Dogs with Valley Fever are generally treated with antifungal medications. How long your dog will need to be on these medications will depend upon the severity of your dog's condition.
Antifungal medications will need to be administered for about 6-12 months, however, you should expect to see an improvement in your dog's health within a week or two of starting the medication. In cases where the spherules have spread to other parts of the body, antifungal medications may need to be taken for life.
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.