Valley Fever In Dogs: Symptoms, Causes, & Treatments

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Valley Fever in dogs, also known as coccidioidomycosis, is a diseased caused by a fungus called Coccidioides immitis. The disease has several other names, including Desert Rheumatism, San Joaquin Valley Fever, and California Disease. The fungus is common in the hot, dry climates of the southwestern United States, Central America, and parts of South America. Usually the fungus stays buried in soil where it is dormant, but when it rains, the fungus becomes active and spreads. Anything that disturbs soil, like earthquakes or construction, can cause spores to be released from the ground, as well. When dogs breathe these spores in, they can become infected. Many infected dogs don’t show any symptoms of Valley Fever, but some become severely ill. Dogs that suffer from Valley Fever often develop respiratory problems, and in some dogs, the disease can be fatal. If you see the signs of Valley Fever in your dog, consult your veterinarian right away so they can form a proper diagnosis and prescribe treatment. Here’s what you should know about the symptoms, causes, and treatments for Valley Fever in dogs.

Symptoms Of Valley Fever In Dogs

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The symptoms of Valley Fever in dogs may vary in severity, and most dogs that are infected by the fungus don’t show any symptoms at all. On the other hand, some dogs develop symptoms that are so serious that they become life-threatening. Usually dogs affected by the disease show signs of respiratory illness at first and develop additional symptoms after four months or more as the disease spreads from the lungs to other parts of the body. Here are some of the symptoms seen in dogs that suffer from Valley Fever.

  • Fever
  • Shortness of breath, rapid breathing, or difficulty breathing
  • Coughing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weakness
  • Lethargy
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Lameness
  • Swollen joints or bones
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Neck or back pain
  • Seizures
  • Changes in vision
  • Inflammation of the eyes
  • Oozing sores on the skin
  • Weight loss
  • Heart failure

Causes Of Valley Fever In Dogs

A mother dog watches her puppy (with white and brown fur) playing in the soil

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Valley Fever in dogs is caused by a fungus called Coccidioides immitis. Dogs that live in the hot, dry climate where this fungus is found are more at risk for exposure. Normally the fungus is dormant underground, but rainfall, construction, crop harvests, earthquakes, or anything that disturbs the dry ground can cause spores to rise and be carried on the wind. When dogs breathe in these spores, they can become infected.

Usually dogs’ immune systems are able to fight off such an infection, but dogs with compromised immune systems, including puppies and seniors, are more susceptible to developing symptoms of Valley Fever. Dogs that spend most of their time outside are also at greater risks. Certain breeds are more predisposed to Valley Fever, including Australian Shepherds, Beagles, Boxers, Cocker Spaniels, Doberman Pinschers, Pointers, and Scottish Terriers.

Treatments For Valley Fever In Dogs

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Treatment for Valley Fever in dogs depends on the severity of symptoms. In most cases where symptoms are mild to moderate, dogs may need to have their physical activity limited as they recover, and they should be provided with a diet that is easily digested. For dogs that are suffering from more severe respiratory distress, oxygen therapy may be required. Other clinical signs, such as seizures, coughing, or pain, may be treated with various medications accordingly.

If the disease has spread throughout the body, aggressive antifungal treatment may be needed. This treatment can last for six months to more than a year, even though dogs usually start to feel better within one or two weeks after the start of treatment. It takes a long time for the infection to be completely eradicated, and in cases where the infection spreads to the central nervous system, dogs may need treatment for the rest of their lives. Relapses are common when treatment is discontinued before the infection can be completely cleared. If your dog is diagnosed with Valley Fever, it is important that you follow your veterinarian’s instructions fully, even if your dog seems to be feeling better.