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Valley Fever in Dogs

Valley fever is prevalent across the Southwestern United States, infecting people, dogs, cats, and livestock alike. In this post, our Gold Canyon vets discuss Valley fever in dogs, including the causes, signs, and treatment options.

What is Valley fever?

Coccidioidomycosis is a condition seen in dogs and people that goes by several different names including valley fever, desert rheumatism, San Joaquin Valley fever, and California disease.

Valley fever is caused by a fungus called Coccidioides immitis that lives in the soil and thrives in particular desert climates. In the U.S. Coccidioides immitis can be found in the low desert regions of Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and California.

How do dogs get Valley fever?

Valley fever is spread through the inhalation of fungal (Coccidioides immitis) spores. When the spores are inhaled by your dog, the fungus (Spherules) begins to grow in the lungs.

If your dog has a strong and healthy immune system, the body will fight off the fungus and they will not show any signs of Valley fever.

However, if your dog is a young puppy, a senior dog, or has a compromised immune system, the spherules will continue to grow until they eventually burst, releasing hundreds of endospores that can spread throughout the lungs and other parts of your pet's body where the cycle will begin again.

Thankfully, Valley fever is not contagious among dogs, so you don't have to worry about an infected dog passing it to other dogs in the house or other dogs in general.

Valley Fever Symptoms in Dogs

In the early stages, when the spherules are contained within the lungs, symptoms of valley fever typically include fever, dry cough, decreased appetite, and lethargy.

Once the fungal spores have reached other parts of your dog's body more diverse symptoms may appear such as painful swollen joints, persistent fever, weight loss, eye inflammation, and blindness. In some very rare cases, if the fungus reaches the brain, valley fever can result in 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.

Is Valley fever curable in dogs?

When diagnosed and treated early enough, many dogs recover well from Valley fever. Dogs diagnosed with Valley fever after the disease has spread to other parts of the body are more challenging to treat, and in some cases the disease becomes life-threatening.

Treatment for Canine Valley Fever

Antifungal medications are the primary treatment for valley fever in dogs. How long your dog will need to take these medications will depend upon the severity of your pup's condition.

In most cases, antifungal medications will need to be administered for 6-12 months, with an improvement in symptoms often being seen within a week or two. When valley fever has spread to other parts of the body, your dog may need to continue taking antifungal medications for life.

How to Prevent Valley Fever in Dogs

Because the fungus that causes Valley fever lives in dry, desert soil, the most common places for infection include Arizona, California, Utah, Texas, and Nevada. Luckily, there are several steps you can take to protect yourself and your pet 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 pet 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 dogs against Valley fever, making it much safer for dogs to roam in yards and other outdoor areas.

If you live in an area where the condition is common, it’s best to vaccinate your pup on the recommended schedule — likely once or twice a year after the initial dose and booster. There are minimal side effects, and the hope is the vaccine will be approved for manufacture within the year.

Are you worried your dog may have contracted Valley fever? Contact our Gold Canyon vets to have your pup cared for right away!

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