If you’ve lived in southern Arizona for any length of time, you’ve probably heard of Valley Fever. As a veterinarian, I diagnose and treat it on a weekly basis.
Valley Fever is caused by a fungus, Coccidiomycosis, that is in our soil, meaning that most of our pets have been exposed to it. As with any infectious disease, the immune system plays a big role in whether our pets can fight off the infection on their own or if they become sick and need treatment. There is no vaccine for Valley Fever. The key is rapid diagnosis and following your veterinarian’s treatment recommendations.
Pets contract this disease by breathing the fungus into their lungs. It may cause a respiratory infection or move to other locations including bones or other internal organs. Valley Fever is not contagious, although I’ve treated multiple pets in one household because they’re exposed to the same environment.
The most common symptoms of Valley Fever are lethargy, fever, weight loss and cough. We also see lameness and pain, seizures, blindness and organ failure. If Valley Fever is suspected, your veterinarian will recommend multiple blood tests and radiographs as no one test is definitive. Treatment is an anti-fungal medication given for months to years. Your veterinarian will monitor treatment over time with blood tests and/or radiographs to determine when it might be safe to discontinue medication in your pet.
For more information on Valley Fever, visit the website for the Valley Fever Center for Excellence (https://vfce.arizona.edu/) or contact us at Valley Verde Veterinarians (520-393-7387).