Is Valley Fever in Dogs Contagious?

Valley fever in dogs is a fungal infection that requires long term treatment. This disease is most common in the dry and dusty states of the south west in the US such as Southwestern Texas, Mexico, Arizona and California.

Canine Valley Fever

There are namely 2 types of valley fever observed in dogs: primary valley fever and disseminated valley fever. This condition is caused by spores of fungi known as coccidioidomycosis that are prevalent in the desert soil. These spores get airborne when the soil is disturbed and can be inhaled by your pet.

The spores enter the lungs and proliferate, thus causing infection. Valley fever generally affects the dog’s lungs, liver, eyes, heart muscles and central nervous system, and in some cases can cause pneumonia.

Symptoms of Canine Valley Fever

Canine Valley Fever symptoms include:

  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of weight
  • Lethargy
  • Pain in the neck and back
  • Swelling of limbs and lymph nodes
  • Lameness
  • Ulceration of the skin
  • Inflammation of the eyes accompanied by pain
  • Seizures 
  • Severe pneumonia

Diagnosis of Valley Fever in Dogs

A physical exam and an evaluation of the pet’s medical history can help the veterinarian diagnose valley fever. In addition to this blood tests are performed to determine if the pet has increased levels of canine valley fever antibodies.  X-rays of the joints, lungs and the chest are also performed.

Treatment of Valley Fever in Dogs

Anti fungal medications such as Fluconazole, Ketoconazole and Itraconazole are effective in the treatment of valley fever in dogs. These are available in capsule form and can be easily administered to your pet. Fluconazole is the prescription of choice as there are very few side effects associated with this medication.

The medication has to be administered for a lengthy period of time as this infection is difficult to clear. The duration of treatment is for a 6 to 12 month period and dogs with disseminated valley fever that has affected or the central nervous system might need to be treated for the duration of their lives. Other medications include medications for pain management, controlling fever and suppressing coughs. Titer tests need to be performed at regular intervals in order to determine if it is appropriate to discontinue the medication.

Prognosis for Canine Valley Fever

The prognosis is good for the majority of dogs although pets belonging to the high risk group such as puppies, older dogs and dogs with compromised immune systems, do not recover despite being treated for a long period. Dogs generally show a positive response within a few weeks of treatment.

Transmission of Canine Valley Fever

Canine valley fever is not at all contagious and can’t be transmitted from one dog to another or from one species to another.

You can lower the risk of your pet contracting this infection by keeping him away from dirt and soil. If you live in the desert states of south west USA, you should monitor your pet’s health and have him checked by the veterinarian as soon as he displays any of the symptoms mentioned above.