Valley Fever in Dogs

Back in January we noticed Rosie wasn’t feeling well. She was sluggish and coughing from time to time. We took her to the vet for bloodwork and X-rays. All of the initial results were good but the test that took the longest for results was Valley Fever. Sure enough she tested positive. What is Valley Fever and why do dogs contract this infection?

Valley Fever, also known as coccidioidomycosis, is a disease caused by a fungus and it’s spores called Coccidioides immitis. This fungus is primary found in low desert regions of Arizona, New Mexico, southwestern Texas, and the central deserts of California. The fungal spores are usually dormant. Changes in weather and disturbances to the soil like earthquakes and construction can cause the spores to be released from the ground. Dogs breathe in the spores and their lungs become infected.

If we had to guess how Rosie got infected we would put our money on construction. We live in an area that until recently had lots of open spaces. Lately developers have been full speed ahead building housing and commercial projects on what used to be beautiful open desert. This not only stirs up dust and spores causing valley fever, but also displaces our local wildlife. That’s a blog for another time.

Once we got the diagnosis for Rosie it was time to begin treatment. Valley Fever in dogs is primarily treated with an oral antifungal medication called Fluconazole. Treatment can last months or years depending on the severity of the infection. Lucky for us Rosie tested low on the titer scale, how they measure the disease severity.

Medication dosing for dogs is based on disease and weight. To get the right dosing we have Rosie’s medication prepared at a compounding pharmacy. They prepare the medication in a beef flavored liquid form. The most common side effect for this medication is stomach upset and elevated liver enzymes.

So far Rosie is eating normally and we have regularly scheduled bloodwork to monitor her liver enzymes. In about a month we will take her back for a follow up titer test. We’re hoping the medication will work and clear up the Valley Fever quickly. We will be sure to post an update after her next titer test.

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Thanks for reading and have a happy animal filled day. 🙂 Mrs. Zoo

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