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Valley Fever: the Family Veterinarian

VALLEY FEVER is an infection caused by the fungus Coccidiodies immitis which lives in the soil of the arid deserts of the southwestern United States. The fungus produces spores, which if inhaled from the soil or dust can cause the infection. The disease cannot be transmitted from an infected animal to other animals or to people in most cases.

Most animals that inhale the spores do not become infected, and many become resistant to infection. There are two main forms of the disease; a primary form which generally involves the lungs and manifests as fever, cough, and loss of appetite. The other form, known as the disseminated form, can involve bone, joints, skin and other organ systems. This form is much more difficult to treat.

CLINICAL SIGNS include; fever, joint swelling, weight loss, cough, skin abscesses, lameness, pain, seizures, and incoordination. Diagnosis is made through blood tests, X-rays, biopsy, or other tests depending on areas affected.

TREATMENT consists of long term Nizoral therapy (or some related drugs) which is taken in pill form. Other treatments are available for more severe cases. Treatment is a slow process and may take over a year in some cases. Follow-up testing is required to monitor the success of the therapy. This testing is extremely important if your pet is to be cured.

Some pets with the disseminated form may not be cured, although long term therapy may control the illness in many cases.

VFCE - Do dogs get Valley Fever?

Yes, dogs get Valley Fever! Like people, dogs are very susceptible to Valley Fever. Dogs primarily contract Valley Fever in the low desert regions of Arizona, New Mexico and southwestern Texas and the central deserts of California. Dogs accompanying people traveling through these areas or wintering in these warm climates have about the same chance as their owners of being infected.

VFCE - For more information on Valley Fever in other species

Valley Fever can affect many other animals besides dogs. Most mammals can be shown to be infected with the fungus, even if they do not get sick from it very often. Species in which Valley Fever has been found include:
* cattle and other livestock
* horses
* llamas
* apes and monkeys
* many kinds of zoo animals such as kangaroos, wallabies, tigers, bears, badgers, otters, etc
* marine mammals - sea otters and dolphins
* occasional wildlife that lives in the endemic area - skunk, cougar, javelina

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