A closer look: Valley Fever (Coccidioidomycosis) in Dogs
Most dogs who come in contact with infectious Coccidioides immitis spores do not get sick. In symptomatic cases, severity varies depending on whether the infection is limited to the lungs or becomes disseminated, meaning that it travels to other parts of the body. With a limited infection, most dogs fully recover. In cases of disseminated infection, the condition is much more serious. Prompt and aggressive treatment is paramount for a good prognosis. Severe cases presenting with serious symptoms such as difficulty breathing, seizures, or collapse may be life threatening and should be treated as an emergency.
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Valley fever in dogs is common in at-risk areas. Risk factors that might make infection more likely include dust storms, exposure to dense underbrush, and exposure to recently disturbed soil. Areas where coccidioidomycosis is common include the southwestern United States, Mexico, and central and South America. Within the United states, the infection is particularly common in southern California, Arizona, and southwest Texas.
In cases of disseminated infection, other parts of the body become infected, affecting particularly bone and joints, the nervous system, and the eyes.
The main cause of infection is the inhalation of contaminated dust containing the fungus spores.
Most cases of Coccidioidomycosis are limited to the lungs.
Testing and diagnosis
Valley fever presents with symptoms similar to many other diseases, and requires several diagnostic tests to reach a definitive diagnosis. Routine diagnostic tests include a complete physical evaluation and bloodwork. Diagnostic imaging of the chest, such as MRI and X-rays, is often necessary. The final step is confirming the presence of the fungus through tissue biopsy or blood testing for the presence of specific antibodies against the fungus.
Steps to Recovery
Treatment typically involves the prescription of antifungal medications. Therapy is generally aggressive and may require up to a year of treatment time. During treatment, dogs need to be checked regularly and require routine blood work to monitor for possible complications.
The prognosis varies according to the location and the severity of the infection. Infection that is limited to the lungs generally has a good prognosis, and most dogs fully recover. A disseminated infection has a guarded prognosis due to the risk of serious complications. Relapse of symptoms is common in disseminated infections. If the brain or the heart is involved, the survival rate drops significantly.
Coccidioidomycosis is not directly contagious between animals. Prevention is possible by avoiding dusty, dry environments, especially in at-risk areas.
Is Valley Fever (Coccidioidomycosis) in Dogs common?
Valley fever is common in at-risk areas, and seems to affect dogs more severely than other animals.
- Aggressive antifungal therapy
- Routine checks