Canine Valley Fever: Coccidioidomycosis in Dogs

Dogs who live in the desert states of Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas can contract Canine Valley Fever, also known as Coccidiodomycosis, from the soil. While this disease can be treated, it usually involves a long recovery process.

Symptoms of Canine Valley Fever

Canine Valley Fever is caused by a fungus that lives in desert soils and can be inhaled by your dog when he is digging or otherwise disturbing the soil. Dogs who breathe in dust around constructions sites or other areas where humans are disturbing the soil may also be exposed.

Many dogs who are exposed to this fungus never show any symptoms because their immune systems rapidly deal with the problem. However, some dogs develop Canine Valley Fever, most often puppies, seniors and dogs with weakened immune systems from other illnesses.

Canine Valley Fever most often infects the lungs of your dog, causing symptoms such as coughing, fever, weight loss and lethargy. As the symptoms progress, your dog may develop severe pneumonia. If it spreads to other tissues, there may be additional symptoms such as swelling of limbs or lymph nodes, neck or back pain and seizures.

These symptoms typically occur about three weeks after exposure and are not contagious to other dogs within the home.

Diagnosis and Treatment

To definitively diagnose Canine Valley Fever, your dog will most likely need a blood test, which measures the level of fungus in the blood. He may also need an X-ray of infected areas and blood tests for antibody levels.

If the disease has spread only to the lungs, treatment is highly successful. In fact, many dogs heal on their own before the problem is diagnosed. Your veterinarian will prescribe an anti-fungal treatment, which your dog will have to take for 6 to 12 months, depending on the severity of the disease. During this time, your dog will be tested regularly for antibodies. Treatment will end when antibodies have reached the appropriate level.

Though this medical treatment is expensive, it's effective. Most dogs begin to show regression within a week of treatment and, after treatment, usually have an immunity to Canine Valley Fever, preventing them from contracting it again.

If the disease has spread past the lungs, it can be fatal if not treated. Dogs with this stage of Canine Valley Fever may have to remain on the anti-fungal medication for the rest of their lives.

Prevention of Canine Valley Fever

While there is currently no vaccination for Canine Valley Fever, one is being developed that will hopefully prevent future problems. In the interim, there are a few steps you can take to prevent your dog from contracting the disease.

Avoid areas where there is a lot of dust, such as near construction sites or large stretches of desert on windy days. On those days, keep your dog inside and interact with him there. Put gravel in your yard to prevent digging in the dirt or wet down dusty patches regularly. Teach your dog not to dig in your yard.

Though Canine Valley Fever is curable, treatment is expensive and long-lasting. Help prevent your dog from contracting the disease by monitoring him and keeping him out of dusty areas.