If you live in Arizona and have pets, it is important to stay informed about Valley Fever. This disease affects both humans and animals, so being able to recognize Valley Fever symptoms in dogs can help you protect both your pets and your family. Anasazi Animal Clinic is here to keep you informed about symptoms and prevention, so you and your furry friends can safely enjoy the outdoors.

What Is Valley Fever?

Valley Fever is a disease caused by Coccidioides immitis, a fungus commonly found in desert soil. When the soil is disturbed by your dog’s digging, or by construction or wind, Coccidiodes spores become airborne and can be inhaled.

Dogs are most commonly infected due to their tendency to dig and sniff around in their environment, but humans, cats, and most other mammals are also susceptible to infection. Valley Fever is not contagious in dogs, however, as it is caused by inhaling spores and not through contact with an infected pet.

Signs of Valley Fever in Dogs

The infection commonly begins in the lungs, a stage known as the primary disease. It can then spread to other parts of the body during the next stage called the disseminated disease. Valley fever symptoms in dogs can be broken into two categories: symptoms of the primary disease and symptoms of the disseminated disease. 

Symptoms of the primary disease include:

  • Harsh Cough. Since the lungs are the first area infected, a dry cough is one of the first signs. Its symptoms are similar to kennel cough, which means it is commonly misdiagnosed.
  • Fever. The body’s immediate response to infection is fever, and dogs with Valley Fever often reach body temperatures of 103 degrees Fahrenheit and higher.
  • Lack of Appetite and Weight Loss. Illness and the resulting discomfort often causes pets to lose their appetites and, consequently, lose weight.
  • Lethargy. A normally playful pup who is now listless and sleepy could be experiencing energy loss due to fever and infection.

Symptoms of the disseminated disease include:

  • Lameness. Once the infection spreads from the lungs, your dog’s joints may become swollen and painful, causing them to limp.
  • Eye Inflammation or Blindness. Coccidioides infections in the eyes can cause them to become inflamed, and in extreme cases can cause blindness in your pet.
  • Seizure Activity. In rare instances, the fungus may infect the brain resulting in seizure activity.
  • Swollen Lymph Nodes. As your pet’s immune system responds to the infection, the increased breakdown of white blood cells will cause their lymph nodes to swell.

How to Protect Your Dog from Valley Fever

Since the fungus responsible for Valley Fever thrives in dry desert soil, areas commonly affected include Arizona, California, Utah, Texas, and Nevada. Luckily, there are several steps you can take to protect yourself and your pet from contracting Valley Fever.

  1. Avoid non-landscaped areas and confine puppy playtime to well-kept parks.
  2. Take walks in paved areas and keep your dog on a leash.
  3. If your furry friend is a digging enthusiast, avoid desert areas. 
  4. If your home is in a desert area, keep your pet inside for a reasonable amount of time during the summer.
  5. Learn to recognize the signs of Valley Fever and contact your vet immediately if your dog exhibits any symptoms.

What to Do If Your Dog Has Valley Fever

If it’s caught early on, there is a very high chance that your dog will fully recover from Valley Fever. However, if left untreated, the disease can be fatal! You should contact your vet immediately if you suspect your pup has been infected. 

Treatment methods include an anti-fungal medication that must be administered long-term since dogs with Valley Fever are susceptible to relapses. Your vet might also prescribe anti-inflammatory and pain relieving medications to ease your pet’s discomfort. Depending on the specifics of the case, your vet may also recommend nutritional support and fluid therapy.

Emergency Veterinary Care in Gilbert, Arizona

If you have any questions about how to spot Valley Fever symptoms in dogs, or if your dog is showing signs of infections, Anasazi Animal Clinic is here to help. Schedule an appointment online or call our office in Gilbert at 480-497-0505 to get the support you need.


Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash (05/18/22)