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How to Prevent Valley Fever in Dogs

Valley fever can harm people, dogs, cats, and livestock, and it's a serious condition. Our Port Jefferson vets discuss the effects of valley fever in dogs and what you can do to prevent it.

What is valley fever in dogs?

Valley fever, also known as coccidioidomycosis, is a condition that can affect people, dogs, cats, livestock, and even people themselves. There is a fungus known as Coccidioides immitis that is responsible for this condition. This fungus thrives in certain desert regions of the United States.

In Jefferson Animal Hospital, our veterinarians see cases of Valley Fever in both dogs and cats, although the incidence of the disease in cats is lower. According to estimates, our Port Jefferson veterinarians will see one case of Valley Fever in cats for every fifty dogs that are diagnosed with the disease.

How do dogs contract valley fever?

Through inhalation of specific fungal spores, pets are susceptible to contracting Valley Fever. When they enter the lungs of dogs, these spores have the potential to transform into round structures. 

When a dog's immune system is robust and healthy, the body has the ability to "wall off" the spherules, thereby preventing the development of symptoms. If the pet does not exhibit any symptoms of Valley Fever, then they are considered to be asymptomatic, which means that they may have the condition.

On the other hand, these structures will continue to grow until they burst if the dog is extremely young, the dog is very old, or the dog has a weak immune system. When they burst, they release a large number of very small spores, which can spread to other parts of the body, including the lungs, making the condition even more severe.

Is valley fever contagious from one dog to another?

The inhalation of spores is the only way to contract Valley Fever in dogs and cats; the disease is not transmissionable from one pet to another.

What are the 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
  • Dry cough
  • Decreased appetite
  • Lethargy
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
  • Persistent fever
  • Weight loss
  • Eye inflammation
  • Blindness

In some very rare severe 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.

What are the treatment options for valley fever in dogs?

Treating dogs with Valley Fever will typically include an anti-fungal medication such as fluconazole (Diflucan®) or itraconazole (Itrafungol® and Sporanox®). Dogs may also be treated with ketoconazole (Nizoral®).

Valley fever is a condition that requires time to treat. There is a possibility that the pet will be required to continue taking antifungal medication for the rest of their lives if the condition has spread throughout their body. However, the majority of pets will continue to take anti-fungal medication for a minimum of six to twelve months.

What are some ways that valley fever in dogs can be prevented?

An increased risk of contracting Valley Fever is associated with residing in the valley. When it comes to protecting your dog from Valley Fever, it is important to make sure that you bring them in for routine visits to the veterinarian, that you provide them with a diet that is both healthy and complete, and that you keep them inside when the wind is blowing. On the other hand, the more healthy your dog is, the more robust their immune system will be, and the greater the likelihood that they will be able to defend themselves against illnesses and infections.

When it comes to keeping your dog safe, you can take some steps like:

  • When the weather is windy or if there are dust storms, then you should keep your dog inside.
  • If it is windy out, then it would be beneficial to keep your windows closed to keep the spores from entering your home.
  • If you have recently experienced rain, keeping your dog from playing outside may be a good idea.
  • Utilizing grass, gravel, or other dust-controlling ground covers in your yard can help prevent the spores from becoming airborne.
  • Provide your dog with an air filtration mask.

What is the prognosis for dogs that contract valley fever?

When diagnosing and treating Valley Fever in its early stages, the majority of dogs will recover. On the other hand, making a diagnosis of Valley Fever in a dog after it has already spread to other parts of their body can make the disease more difficult to treat, and in some cases, it can even be fatal.

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.

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