Anyone who has lived or spent some time near Scottsdale has probably heard about Valley Fever. But often it is less clear just what causes this disease and which symptoms to watch for in our furry friends. Read on to learn more about the cause, symptoms, testing and treating of this disease!
Valley Fever is caused by a fungus found in the soil. The technical term for the fungus is Coccidioides immitis, but Valley Fever is obviously much easier to say. The term Valley Fever was given to this disease because of where it was originally found – the San Joaquin Valley. While this fungus is found in the soil, a pet digging in the soil or windy conditions can make the fungal spores airborne and, once inhaled, can infect our pets. It’s no wonder that we see an increase in cases during monsoon season, when the dust storms get so crazy here in North Scottsdale!
Once an animal inhales the fungal spores, they may or may not actually develop Valley Fever. We think that the immune systems of most animals are able to fight off the infection. However, in some cases the fungus takes hold and that’s when we can start to see symptoms. Many people are aware that Valley Fever can cause coughing but, unfortunately, the symptoms aren’t limited to that! We say Valley Fever can “do whatever it wants” because of the wide array of symptoms it can cause, including coughing, limping, lethargy, decreased appetite and weight loss, seizures, and sores on the skin.
Not surprisingly, any of these symptoms could be caused by other conditions as well. So if we suspect your dog or cat has Valley Fever, how do we find out if this is actually the case? In most instances a simple blood test can give us the answer. The blood test will give us a titer level – if it comes back high then we need to start treatment right away!
Most pets will respond to treatment, which generally involves giving an anti-fungal medication. However, every pet is different in terms of how long they need to be on this type of medication. The shortest amount of time for treatment is generally 3 months. Unfortunately, for some pets with significant disease (or where the fungus has settled into the bone), treatment can be lifelong. The good news is — so long as they are on the medication — these pets generally seem to feel well.
If you feel that your dog or cat may be showing signs of Valley Fever, call the office today to set up an appointment for an examination and testing. If you have any other questions about Valley Fever not covered in this blog – don’t hesitate to call the office at 480-585-3512 or book an appointment online any time by clicking this link!