If you’re currently living in the Southwest United States, you may already be familiar with Valley Fever. According to NBC’s local 12 News, the Arizona Department of Health Services reported that “Arizona accounted for 65 percent of Valley Fever cases reported nationally in 2014.”
While the illness affects humans and animals (including dogs, cats, horses, apes, bears and tigers), our dogs are most vulnerable, according to VCA Animal Hospitals. Valley Fever is a soil-dwelling fungus and can be contracted when the fungal spores are inhaled. So when dogs sniff and dig the dirt off the ground, they may inhale a large number of these spores.
When the spores are in the dog’s lungs, they’ll turn into a larger structures called “spherules”, said the VCA. Now, if your adult dog has a healthy immune system, it might be able to fight off the illness. The immune system will create a wall to ward off the organism in the spherules. The dog will still be infected but only with mild symptoms which may not even show sign like becoming ill.
Unfortunately, an adult dog with a weaker immune system or even a very young dog may not be so lucky as a serious illness can develop once infected with Valley Fever. The spherules will “continue to grow and eventually burst, releasing more infectious organisms to spread throughout the lungs or to other organs in the body where the cycle repeats itself over and over,” according to VCA.
Apparently, Valley Fever has two forms: Primary Disease (affects the lungs only) or Disseminated Disease (the fungus has spread to other organs). With the Primary Disease, an infected dog can experience “a harsh dry cough, a fever, a lack of appetite, and lethargy or depression”, said the VCA. Meanwhile, the bones and joints are infected with Disseminated Disease, which causes them to become swollen and painful.
The brain may also become infected, but that’s said to be a rare case.
Sadly, there is no known cure for Valley Fever. It’s all scary stuff, but the good news is that Valley Fever cannot be directed transmitted from human to human or human to animals, which means that Valley Fever is not contagious.
However, treatment is available for dogs with Valley Fever. Owners can treat the illness by asking their vert about prescription medications such as ketoconazole, itraconazole, and fluconazole. Depending on how bad the infection is, the treatments could last for 6 to 12 months. Or even for life if the fungus has invaded the nervous system, according to the VCA. Once an infected dog has started the treatment, it can show signs of recovery within 1 to 2 weeks.
But as it turns out, researchers trying to find a cure for Valley Fever suspect our dogs may hold that cure. TGen has begun collecting data from more than 2,000 dog owners about their dog’s breed, health history and life style, reports NBC 12 News. The researchers hope that the data collected will reveal certain trends about Valley Fever that will lead them to improved treatment.
All dogs–both affected and unaffected–are welcomed to participate in the study, said the TGen website.