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Health & Wellness

Valley fever in dogs

Here’s how to treat this infection.

Did you know that changes in the weather can cause health issues for dogs? For example, valley fever cases spike during rainstorms or dust storms in some geographical regions, Dr. Aliya McCullough, Fetch by The Dodo’s on-staff veterinarian, says. Here’s everything pet parents need to know about valley fever in dogs and ways to treat this infection. 

What is valley fever in a dog?

Valley fever is a fungal infection that affects dogs, Dr. McCullough explains. The fungus, also known as Coccidioides, is most commonly found in the Southwestern United States, Northern Mexico and parts of Central and South America, she adds. 

Dogs catch valley fever by inhaling it. “The fungus tends to circulate in the air when dust or soil is disturbed,” Dr. McCullough says. “More infections tend to occur after dust storms, heavy rainstorms during a dry season or earthquakes.”

According to Dr. McCullough, the infection is a disseminated disease — aka, when the fungus is inhaled, it spreads throughout a dog’s body instead of staying in their respiratory tract. 

Is valley fever contagious in dogs? 

While it is a serious condition, valley fever isn’t contagious to other animals or people, Dr. McCullough says. 

Valley fever symptoms in dogs

The symptoms of valley fever vary from dog to dog. Dr. McCullough explains that some dogs will only show mild signs or none at all, while others experience more severe symptoms. If your dog is showing symptoms, watch out for changes like: 

  • Chronic cough (it sounds like a dry cough)
  • Decreased appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Nose bleeds
  • Seizures
  • Weakness
  • Incoordination
  • Enlarged lymph nodes 
  • Skin abscesses or wounds that won’t heal 
  • Abnormal heart rhythm (or heart failure)
  • Eye abnormalities

Dr. McCullough recommends reaching out to a veterinarian immediately after noticing any valley fever symptoms. 

Treatment options for valley fever in dogs

Veterinarians diagnose valley fever through a thorough physical examination, blood work or specific testing to detect the presence of the fungus. Dr. McCullough adds that a veterinarian will likely recommend antifungal medication to treat the infection. 

Dr. McCullough says that a dog’s recovery time depends on the severity of its infection and how well a dog reacts to treatment. “Most dogs with valley fever take antifungal medication for 6 to 12 months,” she adds. “In some cases, therapy is lifelong.”

RELATED: Urinary tract infections in dogs: symptoms and treatments

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Natural remedies for valley fever in dogs

Dr. McCullough explains that there aren’t any natural remedies for valley fever in dogs. So always clear any new treatment options with your veterinarian before trying them. 

How to prevent valley fever in dogs

Minimizing exposure to the fungus is the best way to prevent valley fever in dogs. “Pet parents in affected areas can reduce their pet’s risk of valley fever by preventing pets from roaming and by primarily walking them on sidewalks,” Dr. McCullough says. 

If your dog starts showing signs of valley fever, like a cough or decreased appetite, you’ll know to ask your veterinarian about this infection. With these tips, you can get your dog the best care possible to get them back to their optimal health. 

Photo by Cristina Glebova on Unsplash

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