Canine Coccidiomycosis: Lung Infection in Dogs

Coccidiomycosis is commonly known as valley fever in dogs. It's a fungal infection that infects both dogs and people. Dogs are highly susceptible to coccidiomycosis because they constantly sniff the ground or soil which sometimes contains cocci spores. Certain pets such as young puppies, senior dogs and pets with weak immune systems are more likely to contract coccidiomycosis infection.

How Do Dogs Contract Coccidiomycosis Infection?

Cocci fungus is transmitted to dogs by inhalation. Fungi that cause canine coccidiomycosis thrive primarily in desert soil. They become airborne if the soil is stirred up or after intense rainfall. This in turn leads to spores and increased fungal growth. After inhalation of airborne spores, the infection can enter the pet's lungs and begin the life cycle. Pets may also contract coccidiomycosis through direct contact with a contaminated dog's wound.

Symptoms of Canine Coccidiomycosis

  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Lameness
  • Prolonged cough
  • Joint pain
  • Lymphadenopathy
  • Diagnosis of Valley Fever

The symptoms of canine coccidiomycosis vary in individual pets and the only effective diagnostic test is serology. Often, other parts or organs of the dog's body get infected. The pet's eyes, skin and nervous system may also show changes due to the infection. Although valley fever is the term used for sick pets, most dogs don't show signs of fever. High temperature occurs sporadically and should be monitored carefully. Radiographs of the dog's chest and joints can also help diagnose coccidiomycosis infection.

Treatment of Canine Valley Fever

The treatment for canine valley fever involves the use of anti-fungal medication such as Nizoral or diflucan. Nizoral contains the active ingredient ketoconazole which is an azole antifungal. It works to kill sensitive fungi by interfering with the formation of fungal cell membrane. Nizoral can be added to pet food to make it more palatable.

The general dose for Nizoral in pets is twice a day for duration determined by the vet. Since there isn't any prompt cure for the treatment of canine coccidiomycosis, anti-fungal medication is usually prescribed for one year. Dogs that suffer from damage to the brain due to disease progression require lifelong medication. It's important to diagnose coccidiomycosis at an early stage as it may be fatal in pets that don't receive proper medication.

Side Effects of Medication

Although pets respond well to antimicrobial and fungicidal medication, the treatment is often expensive and prolonged. The most common side effects are vomiting and loss of appetite. However, pets that respond positively to the medication and complete the entire course of treatment develop lifelong immunity to cocci spores. The vet will discontinue medication after conducting a blood test to rule out the presence of canine valley fever antibodies.

Prevention of Canine Valley Fever

The only way to prevent canine valley fever in pets is to keep dogs from digging the mud. Pet owners may also choose to live away from places where cocci fungus exists.

It's important to read and follow package instructions before administering medication to pets. Early diagnosis and prompt medication can also greatly increase the dog's chance of complete cure.