Respiratory: Valley Fever
Cause of Canine Valley Fever:
Canine valley fever is the common name for “Coccidioidomycosis”, a fungal infection caused by the species Coccidioides immitis. A mild to severe respiratory disease can occur in dogs, which depends upon the exposure of the subject towards the causative organism.
This specie of fungus is found in areas with alkaline sandy soils and low rainfalls or drought hit areas. The south-western United States is the most common site of the endemic for infection, but disease may exist in other parts of the world as well.
A dog may get infected by the said fungus after inhaling significant amount of spores. Even less than ten (10) spores of fungus can cause mild respiratory canine valley fever symptoms in dogs, with the severity of infection dependent upon the number of spores inhaled during exposure. Additionally, a dog with suppressed immunity and weak body condition is more prone to the disseminated form of canine valley fever.
Signs and Symptoms:
In the mild form of infection, a dog may experience only upper respiratory tract infection and involvement of local lymph nodes. Mild cough, fever, weight loss and anorexia (poor appetite) are the only signs noted in the early stages and/or mild form of valley fever in dogs.
In severe or disseminated forms of valley fever, along with the respiratory tract, other organs in the body are also affected. This form of disease is fatal or life threatening and involves upper as well as the lower respiratory tract with pneumonia like symptoms.
Thoracic lymph nodes are massively involved and are painful when touched. Respiratory infection, which is mild in earlier stages, affects other organs, especially the eyes and bones in advanced stages of the disease. Enlarged joints, cachexia or progressive weight loss without any clear reason, loss of appetite, lameness and intermittent diarrhea are common clinical observations.
Skin is rarely affected by primary canine valley fever, but it causes severe immune depression leaving the skin prone to ulcers and secondary infections. Draining dog skin ulcers, particularly over the a superficial area of affected bones can be noticed. Ophthalmic abnormalities (eye) are less common in dogs, but may occur.
Clinical examination along with a detailed history of the condition, especially the existence of the subject in the endemic areas of infection is necessary for diagnosis. Symptoms of involvement, such as the thoracic lymph nodes, bones and skin are highly directive towards valley fever in dogs.
Detailed laboratory tests, like blood testing for specific antibodies for causative fungus, isolation of the organism from skin lesions and chest X-Rays can confirm the type and severity of infection. It should be remembered that the severe or disseminated form of the disease is a life threatening medical emergency, therefore diagnosis should not be extended and early treatment should be initiated.
Treatment of Canine Valley Fever:
Though confirmation of the infection is necessary, treatment should not be delayed, since the condition is fatal in advanced stages of disease. Early symptomatic and supportive treatment with specific drugs like anti-inflammatory drugs and natural remedies should be started.
Immune supportive and respiratory remedies should be administered for controlling severe symptoms such as fever, cough, difficult breathing and progressive loss of body conditions.
Specific treatment is done with anti–fungal agents, like Ketoconazole, Itraconazole and Flucanazole. Dogs which are sensitive towards Ketoconazole and Itraconazole, or not responding to these anti–fungal agents should be treated with Amphotericin B. Prolonged therapy is always required for complete recovery, and therapy may continue for 3 – 12 months depending upon severity of disease and immune status of the patient.
Natural remedies that support respiratory health and the immune system can heal the infection earlier and regular administration can enhance the capacity of specific therapy. There are 3 natural remedies that could be of help including Respo-K (to support respiratory health), Immunity and Liver Support (for immune system) and RuniPoo Relief (in cases of bowel problems/diarrhea).
Canine valley fever can be prevented by avoiding exposure to fungus spores and by avoiding the areas known to have the presence of fungus in the soil. It is always recommended that immune-suppressant drugs should be avoided during hot days of the year and when there is drought. Similarly, any other immunosuppressive diseases should be treated properly to reduce the chance of any rapidly occurring infection.