Valley fever, or coccidioidomycosis, is a fungal infection that can occur in both dogs and cats; however, it is most prevalent in Southwestern states such as Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada and California. While this is not considered a life-threatening pet health problem in most cases, it can become very serious and even fatal when left untreated.
How Valley Fever Affects Your Pet
The fungus that causes valley fever lives in the soil of deserts. Dogs and cats can inhale fungus spores when they dig. In most cases though, their immune systems can easily kill the infection. If, for some reason, the immune system does not act fast enough, the infection can spread to your pet's lungs and other parts of the body. When the lungs are affected and your pet is not treated, the condition can worsen and your dog or cat can develop pneumonia. Since the disease can affect any tissue in your pet's body, your pet may also experience varying degrees of pain, skin ulcerations and seizures.
Common Symptoms of Valley Fever
In many cases, pets may not show any symptoms when infected by the fungi that cause valley fever. These pets typically do not require treatment. However, if the disease progresses, your pet will show various signs of the illness and will need intensive medical care. Common Symptoms of Valley Fever in Pets in Early Stages: Difficulty Breathing, Shortness of Breath, Rapid Breathing, Coughing, Loss of Appetite, Weight Loss, Lethargy and Generalized Weakness. Common Symptoms of Valley Fever in Pets in Later Stages: Intermittent Diarrhea and/or Vomiting, Chronic Coughing, Lameness and/or Swollen Joints, Neck and/or Back Pain, Seizures, Vision Loss, Weeping Skin Ulcers, Fever and Emaciation.
Treatments for Valley Fever
While valley fever can be serious in its later stages, when diagnosed and treated early, your pet's prognosis is quite good. However, successful treatment can take a year or longer to complete. If your dog or cat is diagnosed with valley fever, you will need to restrict its activity and a special diet may be recommended. Additionally, depending on your pet's condition, hospitalization and oxygen supplementation may be necessary. In any case, your veterinarian will prescribe oral anti-fungal therapy such as Fluconazole, Itraconazole, Ketoconazole, Amphotericin B or Lufenuron. Blood testing will also be required for up to four months following treatments to ensure there are no relapses.
Dogs and cats can develop Valley Fever, just like their humans. Most commonly affected are large breeds and young dogs.
When adding a dog or cat to your family you want to make sure your pet is happy, healthy and protected. During its lifetime your pet is exposed to many illnesses and diseases and some breeds are affected by a congenital disease which is a condition existing at birth. At these moments when your pet is ill or maybe needs surgery, you want to be protected for the unexpected and high veterinarian costs.