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Can Dogs Get Valley Fever?


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You probably worry about a load of understandable health concerns, a few less likely possibilities, and maybe even illnesses you can pick up in deserts. The condition in question is Valley Fever and it can be pretty nasty. It originates from the fungus Coccidioides immitis and thrives in hot, desert-like environments. It is particularly abundant in Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Texas, and California. If caught early it can be fairly mild, but if caught late it can be fatal!  But what about your dog? They are exposed to the same conditions as you. Can your dog even get Valley Fever?

Can Dogs Get Valley Fever?

People may think because dogs don’t spend their days wandering the desert that they can’t get Valley Fever, but they actually do and a lot more often than you probably think! 

But how does your dog even get Valley Fever? Your furry companion needs to inhale particular spores. The problem is, because canines have a habit of sniffing and rubbing their noses into everything, they can easily hoover up the culprit spores. If you live in a hot, desert-like environment, your dog is even more at risk. So, if you’re worried about your dog catching Valley Fever, read on to discover what to look out for.

Does My Dog Have Valley Fever?

Does your dog have a severe cough? Can you see ulcers on the skin? Does your dog seem stiff with swollen joints? Does your dog lack appetite and energy? Fever and weight loss are additional symptoms. If you do think your dog may have these symptoms, getting medical assistance quickly could save your pup's life!

Once the illness has spread from the lungs to other organs or parts of the body, you may see signs like seizures, abscesses under the skin and sores that will not heal, swollen lymph nodes, and pain. The pain may be in the back or neck and be accompanied by paralysis. Your dog's eyes may become cloudy and irritated. The testicles could become swollen and your dog could show signs of lameness if the disease spreads to the leg bones.

How will your vet diagnose Valley Fever? Thankfully, there is a specific test, called a Cocci test. This test will accurately check the blood to determine if their blood is producing antibodies that are used to fight the fungus. Firstly though, your vet will perform a urinalysis and a biochemistry profile, as well as discussing symptoms with you. For more information on fever-like symptoms to watch out for, see here.

How Do I Treat My Dog’s Valley Fever?

There is no quick fix for Valley Fever in your dog, so be prepared for a long course of treatment. Anti-fungal medications are the first port of call and may be required for up to a year. There are three medications in particular given, depending on the individual case. They are fluconazole, ketoconazole, and itraconazole. They work by effectively halting the growth of the fungus inside your dog. 

Recovery will depend largely on the stage of the condition when treatment begins. If caught early, dogs can recover successfully in a matter of weeks or months. They may need substantial rest and tablets every day, for up to a year, but they will eventually recover. 

If the condition is not diagnosed until much later, the consequences could be much more severe. If your dog is older, their immune system may be much weaker and fighting off the fever could be much more of a challenge. If it is already at a late stage, your dog could, unfortunately, die. If this is the case, your vet will assist you with any medical decision that needs to be taken.

For first-hand accounts from owners, read our guide to Valley Fever in Dogs.

How Is Valley Fever Similar in Dogs and Humans?

You can often see striking similarities in the way Valley Fever symptoms manifest themselves in dogs, humans, and other animals. Some of the most common similarities seen are as follows:

  • Both dogs and humans may have painful and swollen joints, making moving uncomfortable.

  • It is common for both dogs and humans have typical symptoms of fever.

  • A moderate to severe cough can also be seen in both dogs and humans suffering with the condition.

  • A lack of appetite is also a common symptom in both dogs and humans.

How Is Valley Fever Different in Dogs and Humans?

While, admittedly, there are a number of common symptoms to keep an eye out for, there are also certain differences it is worth being aware of. Some of the most striking differences in the condition are as follows:

  • Dogs can develop ulcers on the skin when Valley Fever has taken hold, this is a symptom seen far less in humans.

  • In humans, a rash on the upper body or legs is common, however, this is rarely seen in dogs.

  • Humans will often break into visible night sweats, again this is seen far less in dogs.

Case Study

Barney was an 11-month-old Border Collie mix when he was diagnosed with Valley Fever. He had contracted the condition while on holiday in Southern New Mexico. He had skin ulcers, problems with his eyesight and his knees kept giving way. He was given 7 months of fluconazole and then X-rays finally seemed to suggest he was clear. However, he quickly became totally blind, even though the symptoms seemed to have disappeared. This case demonstrates two things. Firstly, you must be particularly wary of Valley Fever if you live in hot, desert-like environments. But it also shows the importance of getting fast treatment. Otherwise, your dog could be left with life-changing injuries.

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