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Valley Fever: Is Your Pet at Risk?

Jul 2, 2023 | Ask a Vet, Health Emergencies, Pet Safety, Valley Fever


Understanding Pets and Valley Fever Risks, Symptoms, and Treatment

Valley fever is a serious disease that poses a significant risk to pets, particularly in Arizona and other affected regions. In this blog, we’ll explore the symptoms of Valley fever in pets, its prevalence, and the potential risks they face. We’ll also discuss what Valley fever is, how it’s contracted, diagnosis and testing methods, available treatment options, and essential preventive measures to help keep your pets safe.

What is Valley Fever?

Valley fever, scientifically known as Coccidioidomycosis, is a fungal infection caused by inhaling fungal spores found in soil. It can affect various types of animals, including horses and cats, with dogs being particularly susceptible, and it can even affect humans if exposed. Valley fever in pets or humans is most common in areas with high concentrations of this fungus and arid desert areas such as the Southwestern United States, including California and our home state of Arizona. 

Valley Fever Symptoms

Recognizing the symptoms of Valley fever in pets is crucial for early detection and timely treatment. Here are some common Valley fever symptoms to watch out for:

  1. Coughing: Persistent or chronic cough that worsens over time.
  2. Difficulty Breathing: Labored breathing or shortness of breath.
  3. Lethargy: General lack of energy or increased tiredness.
  4. Weight Loss: Unexplained weight loss or decreased appetite.
  5. Lameness: Intermittent or persistent limb pain or lameness.
  6. Joint Swelling: Swelling of the joints or limbs.
  7. Limping: Difficulty or pain while walking or moving. 
  8. Skin Lesions: Skin nodules, abscesses, or draining wounds.
  9. Eye Inflammation: Redness, discharge, or inflammation of the eyes.
  10. Fever: Elevated body temperature, often accompanied by lethargy or loss of appetite.

It’s important to note that these Valley fever symptoms may vary depending on the species and individual pet. By being aware of them, you can promptly seek veterinary care should any arise and increase the chances of a positive outcome. 

Diagnosis and Testing for Valley Fever in Pets

Accurate diagnosis is essential for proper treatment. To confirm Valley fever in pets, veterinarians typically employ various diagnostic methods. These might include fungal culture to identify the presence of the fungus, blood tests to detect specific antibodies or antigens, and x-rays to assess joint, bone, or lung abnormalities. The combination of these tools helps veterinarians make an accurate diagnosis of Valley fever in pets and tailor the animal’s treatment plan accordingly. 

Valley Fever Treatment Options

Treatment options for Valley fever in pets vary depending on the infection’s severity and your pet’s overall health. Some common approaches include:

  1. Antifungal Medications: Prescription antifungal medications, such as fluconazole, ketoconazole, or itraconazole, are commonly used to treat Valley fever in pets. These medications all target the same pathway in the fungus to inhibit its growth in the pet, but they differ in some chemical properties and metabolism. Additionally, courses of medication are usually extensive, averaging 6-12 months. Dogs with more severe cases typically require longer courses of this treatment, and cases where the central nervous system is affected often involve lifetime treatment to keep symptoms from recurring. 
  2. Supportive Care: Pets with Valley fever will require supportive care, including plenty of rest, a proper nutrition plan, and hydration. In severe cases, hospitalization and intravenous fluids may be necessary.
  3. Follow-up Monitoring: Regular follow-up visits with a veterinarian are essential to monitor the progress of the treatment and adjust medication dosages as needed. Blood tests and imaging may be conducted to assess the pet’s response to treatment.

Valley Fever in Pets

Living in Arizona inherently comes with the risks of contracting Valley Fever. As a pet owner, the best thing you can do for your furry family member is be vigilant about monitoring your pet’s health and promptly seek veterinary care if you notice any Valley fever symptoms. Early detection and treatment can help prevent the infection from progressing to a severe stage.

Valley fever is a serious concern, and it’s important for pet owners in Arizona and other affected regions to be aware of the potential dangers. By recognizing the symptoms and understanding the pets and Valley fever risk, you can proactively protect your furry friends. Timely veterinary care is essential for managing this disease. Stay informed, prioritize your pet’s well-being, and contact your veterinarian immediately if you suspect your pet may be displaying Valley fever symptoms. Together, we can ensure their health and happiness for many years to come!

Disclaimer: Not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinarian advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian with any questions you may have regarding the medical condition of your pet. If you think your pet has a medical emergency, call or visit your veterinarian or your local veterinary emergency hospital immediately.