The summer months are the peak season for exposure to Valley Fever! Due to their love of dirt and digging, dogs can be quite susceptible to contracting Valley Fever. The fungal respiratory infection is also known as coccidioidomycosis, and it’s caused by breathing in microscopic fungal spores from the air or lurking in dust.
Here’s what you need to know:
1/ Valley fever is caused by a fungus that lives in the soil and dust in the southwestern United States. Once the spores are inhaled, the body is at risk.
2/ Valley Fever is NOT contagious. The infection does not spread between humans or animals or any combination.
3/ Symptoms of Valley Fever in humans and animals are usually similar to the flu. Typically, symptoms manifest between one and three weeks after exposure to the fungal spores. Primary symptoms include:
- weight loss
- lack/loss of appetite
- lack of energy
4/ Cats have different symptoms. Non-healing skin lesions are the most common symptom in cats – and it’s usually found in the lesion’s biopsy results. Since cats are so good at hiding illnesses, they’re often much sicker than dogs upon diagnosis.
5/ Dogs with a weakened or compromised immune system are at a higher risk for developing the chronic form of Valley Fever. Disseminated symptoms include:
- lameness or swelling of limbs
- back or neck pain, with or without weakness/paralysis
- seizures and other manifestations of brain swelling
- soft abscess-like swelling under the skin
- swollen lymph nodes under the chin, in front of the shoulder blades, or behind the stifles
- non-healing skin ulcerations or draining tracts that ooze fluid
- eye inflammation with pain or cloudiness
- unexpected heart failure in a young dog
- swollen testicles
6/ Arizona dog owners spend more than $60 million per year treating Valley Fever.
7/ Valley Fever cannot be prevented. Currently, there is no vaccine or cure for Valley Fever.
8/ Cases of Valley Fever are on the rise. Each year, the fungus infects thousands of humans and an undetermined number of animals. Many researchers believe that milder cases may go undiagnosed and unreported.
9/ Try to avoid activities that generate dust. Digging in the dirt, sniffing rodent holes, and rolling around in the dirt or dust can increase the likelihood of exposure.
10/ Valley Fever can be deadly. If you suspect your pet has Valley Fever, you must seek veterinary help as soon as possible.