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Valley Fever in Dogs

Valley Fever is prevalent across the country and can infect people, dogs, cats, and livestock. Today, our Riverside County vets discuss the causes, signs, and treatment of Valley Fever in dogs.

What is Valley Fever?

Coccidioidomycosis is a condition that affects dogs, cats, livestock, and humans. It is also known as Valley Fever, desert rheumatism, San Joaquin Valley Fever, and California disease. 

Valley Fever is caused by the pathogenic fungus Coccidiodes immitis, which lives in the soil and thrives in desert climates. Coccidiodes immitis is found in the low deserts of New Mexico, Texas, California, and, most notably, Arizona.

It is important to seek veterinary assistance as soon as your dog is showing signs of Valley Fever. Left untreated, your dog may require urgent medical care and the disease can become fatal.

How Dogs Contract Valley Fever

Dogs get Valley Fever when they inhale Coccidiodes immitis fungal spores. When the spores are inhaled by your dog, they form spherules in the lungs.

In dogs with a strong and healthy immune system, the body can typically 'wall off' the spherules, preventing symptoms from arising. This means that the dog may have Valley Fever but exhibit no symptoms, which is referred to as asymptomatic.

If your dog is very young, old, or has a compromised immune system, the spherules will most likely continue to grow until they burst, releasing hundreds of endospores that can spread throughout your dog's lungs and other parts of the body, resuming the cycle and making the condition worse.

Transmissibility of Valley Fever

Valley Fever is not contagious between pets, and can only be contracted through the inhalation of spores.

Signs & Symptoms of Valley Fever in Dogs

In the early stages, when the spherules are contained within the lungs, symptoms of Valley Fever in dogs typically include:

  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Decreased appetite
  • Dry cough

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
  • Eye inflammation
  • Weight loss
  • Persistent fever
  • Blindness

In some very rare severe cases, if the fungus reaches the brain, Valley Fever can cause 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.

Treating Valley Fever in Dogs

Antifungal medications such as fluconazole or itraconazole are commonly used to treat Valley Fever in dogs. Ketoconazole can also be used to treat dogs.

Treatment for Valley Fever in dogs takes a long time. The majority of dogs will need to take antifungal medications for at least 6 to 12 months. If the condition continues to spread throughout the body, your dog may require this medication for the rest of their life.

Is Valley Fever curable in dogs?

The prognosis for dogs diagnosed with Valley Fever depends upon the severity of the condition as well as other factors such as your dog's age and overall health.

The Prognosis for Dogs With Valley Fever

Many dogs recover from Valley Fever when it is diagnosed and treated early on. Dogs diagnosed with Valley Fever after the disease has spread to other parts of the body are more difficult to treat, and in some cases, the disease becomes fatal.

How to Prevent Valley Fever in Dogs

Valley Fever is primarily found in Arizona, California, Utah, Texas, and Nevada due to the fungus's affinity for dry desert soil. Fortunately, you can take several precautions to keep yourself and your dog from contracting Valley Fever.

  • Avoid non-landscaped areas and limit your dog's roaming to well-kept parks.
  • Take walks in paved areas and keep your dog on a leash.
  • If your dog likes digging, avoid desert areas.
  • If your home is in a desert area, keep your dog inside for a reasonable amount of time during the summer.
  • Learn to recognize the signs of Valley Fever and contact your vet immediately if your dog exhibits any symptoms.

Valley Fever Vaccination

There is a vaccine available to protect your dogs against Valley Fever. This will make it much safer for dogs to roam around yards and other dog-friendly outdoor spaces.

If you live in an area where the condition is common, you should vaccinate your dog on the recommended schedule — usually once or twice a year after the initial dose and booster. The vaccine has few side effects, and it is expected to be approved for manufacture within a year.

Even if you do not live in a valley fever-prone area, you should be aware of any changes that may occur over time. Climate change accelerates infection rates, potentially necessitating vaccination in the future.

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.

If you suspect that your dog may have valley fever, contact our Riverside County vets immediately for urgent care. 

New Patients Welcome

Banning Veterinary Hospital is accepting new patients. Our experienced and compassionate vets care about the health of animals across Riverside County. Contact us today in order to book your first appointment.

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