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What is Valley Fever?

Dogs which come into contact with fungus or become diagnosed with a fungal infection can become quite ill. One particular disease caused by a type of fungus is known as Valley Fever. The offending fungus is Coccidioides immitis, and Valley Fever is also called coccidioidomycosis. 

The fungus lives in soil and thrives in hot, desert environments. States that this fungus grows plentifully in are Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Texas, and California. It is also prevalent in Mexico and South and Central America. The disease is more prevalent in the summer months and in the late fall.

Valley Fever is limited to the lungs of dogs, and is not contagious to humans or other dogs. The severe cough cannot cause the infection to spread; only inhalation of the fungal spores can cause Valley Fever.

Valley Fever in dogs is a fungal infection that can affect the lungs. This is often found in certain desert-like environments in specific areas of North America.

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Symptoms of Valley Fever in Dogs

  • Lameness
  • Swollen joints
  • Fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Lack of Appetite
  • Moderate to severe cough
  • Malaise
  • Possible ulcers on the skin (rare)

Types

Valley Fever goes by several different names, and may be used interchangeably by medical professionals or in books and articles featuring this disease. Other types of names may include:

  • Desert Rheumatism
  • San Joaquin Valley Fever
  • California Disease

Causes of Valley Fever in Dogs

If you and your dog live in an environment that is conducive to this condition, make an appointment with your veterinarian before the symptoms become too severe. Causes of Valley Fever include:

  • Inhalation of fungi spores (windborne)
  • Fungal spores thrive in the soil of certain regions
  • Living in a climate which prevalence is high
  • Dust particle inhalation

Diagnosis of Valley Fever in Dogs

If your dog is showing symptoms of Valley Fever and lives in a state or area where Valley Fever is common, make an appointment with your veterinarian. Fortunately, there is a test specifically for Valley Fever to enable your veterinarian to come to a definitive diagnosis.

Once you take your dog to the veterinarian, he will do some laboratory testing. He will perform blood work, urinalysis, biochemistry profile, and any other tests that he feels are necessary to rule out any other conditions. He will then take a closer look at his symptoms. He will ask you about his coughing, weight loss, and fever and want to know how long the symptoms have lasted. A serum test and a white blood cell test may also be conducted, as well as x-rays to help the veterinarian become closer to his diagnosis.

Your veterinarian may then perform a test for Valley Fever, which is known as a Cocci test. This test will accurately check the blood of your dog to determine if his blood is producing antibodies that are fighting the fungus. If a positive result occurs, your veterinarian will order a titer from the laboratory. This is a test that effectively will measure the amount of antibodies that are being produced in fighting the fungus. 

If your dog has a low titer amount, other tests will be necessary. Blood cell counts, imaging, examination of the cells, and biopsies may be conducted. A high titer amount may be related to another type of disease and your veterinarian will perform more laboratory panels to help him discover what is affecting your dog.

Treatment of Valley Fever in Dogs

If your dog has been diagnosed with Valley Fever, your veterinarian will recommend the following forms of treatment, which may vary from dog to dog. Treatment methods may include:

Antifungal Treatment

Long term treatment with antifungal medications will be needed in order to treat your dog. Treatment may last up to one year. There are three types of medications given, and the medication of choice will be determined by your dog’s condition and your veterinarian. Fluconazole, Ketoconazole, and Itraconazole are the antifungal medications your veterinarian will choose from. They are effective at targeting the fungus and will halt the growth within your dog.

Recovery of Valley Fever in Dogs

If caught and treated early, dogs can successfully recover from Valley Fever. Your dog will need to continue the antifungal treatment for up to one year and your veterinarian will require follow-up visits to monitor his recovery.

It will be important to follow your veterinarian’s instructions on how to care for your dog at home. Be sure to give his medication to him at the same time every day and do not miss a dose.

Unfortunately, Valley Fever can be fatal if it is diagnosed in the late stages. Your veterinarian will be honest with you as to your dog’s prognosis, and will give you advice on any decision you may need to make in terms of his life.

Valley Fever Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

bailey
Beagle
7 Years
Moderate condition
1 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Coughing

My 7 year old beagle was diagnosed with Valley Fever last November. I believe I caught it early since I took her in a few days after I noticed a mild cough thinking it was kennel cough. The blood test results took a few days and her symptoms quickly worsened. By the time she was diagnosed and prescribed medication she had no appetite, could barely walk and had trouble breathing (crazy how fast it happened!) luckily, after a few weeks on fluconazole and a small dose of prednisone she quickly improved. By Christmas she was pretty much her old energetic, food-loving beagle self again. It’s been 5 months now, and she is doing even better! She is happy, energetic, alert and constantly wanting food (which in November I often had to force her to eat which was heart breaking!) The only thing I’m worried about is her lingering cough and congestion. She only coughs when she is excited or sometimes after running. Likewise, she sounds congested at times as if she is snoring while awake. Is this normal for the 5 month mark? Should the cough be gone by now? I just want to keep on track so I can prepare for her 6 month follow up blood test. Should I be more worried since she still coughs every now and then?

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3317 Recommendations
Each case is different and varies in severity, valley fever is a terrible disease and some cases require a years worth of treatment; initial improvement is seen within a few weeks of starting treatment, a cough and some congestion is not surprising at five months (since some dogs may never fully recover from coughing) but the most important thing is that you’re seeing improvement. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Handsome Ron
Mix
9 years
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Valley Fever

Medication Used

Fluconazole

My dog has Valley Fever, the vet in AZ said that he would always be on medication. We moved to Florida and the vet's here do not have a clue on how to test my dog. I was just charged a lot of money for tests that he doesn't even need. I need to know why it's so hard for me to find a vet that understands my dogs condition. They don't understand the titer test. Can you please help me.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3317 Recommendations
Valley Fever is a fungal disease found in the southwest USA, Mexico and some South American countries; it is possible that your Veterinarian in Florida didn’t come across Valley Fever before. Diagnostic tests can be a bit sketchy and may have poor sensitivity to testing; an assessment of the symptoms as well as samples sent for culturing may yield better results. If you have concerns and are relatively near Gainesville, FL I would recommend you visit the Veterinary School there to consult with the Infectious Disease Department. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM www.msdvetmanual.com/generalized-conditions/fungal-infections/coccidioidomycosis www.vetmed.ufl.edu

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Heidi
Golden Retriever
2 Years
Moderate condition
2 found helpful
Moderate condition

I just adopted a Golden Retriever from a guide dog school. She was taken out of the training program when diagnosed with Valley Fever. Not sure how long she has been on fluconazole but they are supplying me with some of the medication. Only had her for a few days now and she seems to be healthy and happy but she has a major problem with incontinence. Can the antifungal medication be causing this? Not sure what to do about it.

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1607 Recommendations
The fluconazole should not cause any incontinence, and that may be an unrelated problem - it would be best to contact them and let them know that this is happening. If they have a veterinarian, they may be able to have her looked at for you to determine the cause of this problem. I hope that she recovers well.

You probably already figured this out, but my Golden developed incontinence after she was spayed also. My Vet put her on Proin which resolved the problem. That was 11 years ago. She has to take the drug for life.

Thank you for that information. She is 2 years old and was spayed 4 weeks ago so I am going to do some research to see if that could cause her incontinence and if there is a treatment for that.

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Barney
Border collie mix
11 Years
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Skin Lesion
Joint pain
Seizures
Inflamation showing on lab work
glaucoma

Medication Used

Fluconazole
Predinsolone and neurobion

Greetings from Albuquerque, New Mexico. My pup is being treated for valley fever that was contracted in southern New Mexico. He has had the lung issues, the presentation in his eyes, skin ulcers, and possibly mild seizures. He was taken off the fluconazole two months ago,after seven months of treatment because x-rays seem to show his lungs were clear. Since then his glaucoma has caused blindness and Eye pressure reached very concerning levels ( there was even a mention of him needing to lose the eyeball as the pressure was 58 ) and his knees both popped out of place and that is being diagnosed as ACL or meniscus issues. My vet seems adamant that the knees are not related to the valley fever. In your expert opinion could knees popping out of place due to inflammation be due to valley fever? And if so should I be concerned that the fungus is present again therefore I should start him back on fluconazole or could it just be residual effects of inflammation in the body ? It's been a frustration and challenge that vets in Albuquerque do not understand this disease. So grateful for any advice you can give.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3317 Recommendations

I do not have any first hand experience with Valley Fever, but disseminated cases of the disease may lead to joint and limb swelling; eye inflammation and cataracts; oozing skin wounds; swollen testicles; and brain inflammation among other symptoms. If you are concerned, ask for a second opinion (from within the practice) or visit another Veterinarian. Whilst limb and joint swelling may cause deviation of the limbs which may cause patellar luxation, I haven’t examined Barney and cannot say whether or not this is the cause in this case. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
http://vfce.arizona.edu/valley-fever-dogs/symptoms

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Tasha Salinas
Bóxer mix
2 Years
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Valley fever, seizures, cough

Medication Used

none

Rescue from Arizona. Boxer mix. Kennel cough cleared. Cough stayed. Misdiagnosed with upper respiratory infection. Once medicated for URI, she started collapsing when excited since 10/2017. X-rays showed lungs completely black covered in fungus. On 11/11/17. Last collapse was a seizure as she was shaking and drooling. Could the VF have spread to her brain? And if it did, should I put her down? I would hate too but don’t want her to suffer. Please advise.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3317 Recommendations
Any dog with respiratory disease in Arizona should be suspected of having Valley Fever; Valley Fever may be localised to the respiratory tract or may spread. It is possible for the infection to affect the brain leading to seizures which may be managed medically. You should speak with a Specialist or your nearest Veterinary School about your options. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM http://vfce.arizona.edu/valley-fever-dogs/prognosis-outcome

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Scooter
Border collie, poodle mix
13 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Cough
Coughing

Medication Used

Fluconazole

My dog was just diagnosed with Primary Valley Fever, and was put on medication. So far the only symptom is a small fever, and a constant cough. My question is will the cough go away? How long does that take?

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3317 Recommendations

Primary Valley Fever is localised to the lungs and results normally with symptoms of a dry cough, loss of appetite, fever and lethargy; whilst treatment length is long (usually more than six months) you should see some improvement in symptoms within two or three weeks, although each case is different. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
http://vfce.arizona.edu/valley-fever-dogs/treatment

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jazz
Min Pin
5 yrs
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Medication Used

Rimadyl
Rimadyl and fluconazole

My dog was diagnosed with Valley Fever over a month ago. She is on fluconazole and rimadyl for fever. Can the fever last through the duration of vf, or should it be gone by now. She does wonderful while on rimadyl but as soon as I take her off it her temperatures spikes. Is the fluconazole not working? Is OK to keep her on rimadyl?

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3317 Recommendations
Fluconazole is the treatment of choice for cases of valley fever with Rimadyl (carprofen - NSAID) being used as a supportive care treatment; treatment for valley fever is long term (over six months) and both fluconazole and Rimadyl are safe to use long term, however Rimadyl may cause some gastrointestinal upset when used over a long period of time so should be looked out for. Due to valley fever being a geographical disease, I do not have any first hand experience with it; I’ve added a link from the University of Arizona which may be informative. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM http://vfce.arizona.edu/valley-fever-dogs/treatment

My dog has Valley Fever and it spread to her brain before she was properly diagnosed. She went from 80 lbs down to 66 pounds and loss strength in her hind legs because it effects the nervous system. She could barely get up without help and at time was lethargic. She has been on Fluconazole and we thought it was helping because she started walking better and now she can even run again, but when we had her blood work rechecked the numbers were higher than before. :( Now their suggesting another anti-fungal medication that's a lot more expensive. Unfortunately this disease is very hard and expensive to treat. At this point we don't know what to do. I hope your dog recovers without you going broke.

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Vito
Cane Corso
6 Years
Critical condition
0 found helpful
Critical condition

Has Symptoms

Bone lesion

The problem started with my dog 6 months ago.He had extreme pain in his shoulder.They took xrays and nothing wrong with his shoulder in the xrays but the vet was a little concerned about something with his lungs.she told me to keep him confined for 8 wks on rhimadyl and tramadol and recheck in 8 wks.His shoulder was better in 8 wks and she didnt say any more about his lungs.so i thought nothing of it.a week later my dog started having pain in his back and i took him to a different vet.This vet recomended blood work and full body xrays and i brought him the xrays from the first vet also.he didnt find anything in the blood work and he went over all the xrays except the lower back legs with me showing me nothing was wrong with his shoulders ,spine,hips or knees.So he thought possible pinched nerve in his back causing pain.But other than that he had a clean bill of health.a week later my dog started to limp just a little after first waking up.i didnt think much of it cause he just had a clean bill of health.over the next couple months that progressed into being totally lame on that leg.So i took him back to the vet and they xrayed his leg and he had a bone tumor.They told me he had 3 months to live and there was nothing they could do but refer me to a cancer specialist.At this point i am out of money.I have already spent over $2000 that i didnt really have to be told he was healthy and a week later start limping with bone cancer.After thinking about the chain of events that led up to this.i wondered if that was what the first vet was seeing in his lungs 6 months ago when she mentioned she was concerned .So i went to her and asked her to check those xrays again and tell me if it was the cancer she was seeing back then.She reviewed them again and she said it did look like it was possibly and then she mentioned valley fever.I dont think she was real familiar with it though because she said it was a virus that could be treated with antibiotics.Which is not the case from everything i have read about it.But my dogs symptoms leading to all of this do fit alot of the symptoms of valley fever.She had me get copies of the xrays from the second vet and she looked at those and said she was probably wrong that it did look like cancer.I have looked at xrays of dogs legs online that have bone lesions from valley fever a from osteosarcoma and they look alot alike almost exactly.So i dont know why she would come to that conclusion from seeing the xray.My dog would go hiking with me atleast 3 times a week all over the the desert we live in.always covering new ground and i guess valley fever is in this area.i live in southern ca and we have been out walking in every part of this area.That was our favorite thing to do.So he was definately at risk for being exposed to it.i wasnt familiar with valley fever and didnt know i may be exposing him.So i am still wondering if the cancer would have shown up in his lungs before the bone tumor came up on his leg.Because i found no other case of it happening in that order.Or should i be more concerned about it possibly being valley fever.I have all his xrays on disc and can send them to you if it would help and you can definately see something going on in his lungs months before the suspected bone tumor.What do you think.I dont feel right about putting him to sleep for the bone cancer before ruling out valley fever and i just dont have any more money to have all the tests done

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1607 Recommendations
Bone cancer tends to show up in the bones before it metastasizes to the lungs. Valley fever and bone cancer can be difficult to differentiate in later stages, but signs before that tend to make us consider that disease, such as weight loss and fever. The way to tell for sure would be to have a test for Valley Fever, or a biopsy, or your veterinarian can prescribe antifungal medication and you can hope... it may be that regardless of the diagnosis, Vito may be suffering, and that needs to be taken into consideration, sadly.

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