Valley fever is a fungal infection that affects the lungs. It stems from the fungus Coccidioides immitis and thrives in hot, desert like environments. This fungus is particularly abundant in Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Texas, and California.
Valley fever can lead to symptoms of swollen joints, lameness, a severe cough and, in some cases, ulcers. It’s a condition that is often mild if treat early, but if caught late it could be fatal! It is therefore always advisable to take steps to prevent conditions like this ever striking down your dog in the first place.
For your dog to get valley fever, he needs to inhale the culprit spores. The prevalence of these spores in many areas of the U.S., Central America, South America, and Mexico, is relatively high. On top of that, these spores can be transported via the wind, making it extremely difficult to avoid.
As there is no vaccine currently available to prevent valley fever, the best steps owners can take is to minimize their dog’s contact with fungal hot spots. The good news is, the disease cannot develop at all unless your dog has travelled through affected areas. The downside is that if they have travelled through those areas, preventing valley fever is challenging, to say the least.
Fortunately, there are certain steps owners can take. The obvious one would be to not to take your dog to visit or travel through states which have high levels of the fungi. But this is obviously not much use to those that live in these environments already! But, if there are wind or dust storms after rain, you should avoid taking your dog out, as the prevalence of the fungi will be much higher. Minimizing contact with fungi hotspots like this is an effective short term preventative measure, but it is not foolproof.
Fungal Spores in the Soil
The Coccidioides immitis fungi also thrive in the soil in some areas. These spores exist in vast numbers in the ground of lots of the states mentioned above. Again, this presents a significant problem to owners. How can you effectively prevent your dog coming into contact with these spores?
You can try your best to minimize their interaction with soil spores. If you see your dog digging in the ground, you should stop him promptly. You can also look for walking routes that do not offer your dog vast amounts of soil to root around in. That could mean walking your dog on pavement or more grassy areas. You could also put your dog on a lead, this will ensure your dog doesn’t dive straight into the first patch of soil they see.
Unfortunately, those steps will only have a limited preventative effect. They are certainly only short-term measures and will not protect your dog in the long run. It also will not protect your dog from inhaling the spores in the wind. But the very nature of this condition and the lack of vaccine makes full prevention a tall order.
Your dog merely has to sniff to contract the spores needed to develop into valley fever. It is especially common in dogs because they have a habit of sniffing and rubbing their noses in anything and everything. Although this is good fun for them, it makes preventing valley fever disheartening at times. That is why the other measures owners can take all center on knowing the symptoms and getting medical assistance as soon as symptoms appear.
On top of some of the symptoms mentioned earlier, seizures, eye inflammation, swollen lymph nodes, weight loss and decreased appetite are all possible indicators. Knowing this could allow you to get swift treatment and could prevent the disease spreading to other parts of your dog and potentially killing them.
If you see any of these symptoms, you should take your dog to the vet as soon as possible. Your vet will be able to undertake the examinations required to diagnose the disease and then begin treatment to stop any further development.
This obviously cannot fully prevent the disease occurring and so is of limited effectiveness in preventing onset. However, it could be effective in preventing the progression of disease and even death. For that reason, keeping an eye out for the above symptoms is essential.
Importance of Prevention
While preventing valley fever is difficult at best, the effects of prevention and early treatment are far-reaching. Complications from valley fever can lead to serious illness and huge vet bills, so these measures could save your dog from great discomfort and danger, and save you a bundle on treatments.
Valley fever can be a particularly nasty condition for your dog to contract. It affects the respiratory system, puts a huge strain on the lungs, and can cause death if caught late. As an owner, you have a limited number of preventative measures to follow, none of which offer a long-term, fully effective solution. However, keeping your dog away from such environments when possible is a good idea. Keeping them out of soil when you can is also sensible, even if it means putting them on a lead. Also, keep an eye out for symptoms, seek medical attention early and do not let your dog out when there has been a recent wind or dust storm. All could potentially save your dog’s life.