Just ask Gus

November 5, 2008

GusDear Gus:
I recently was diagnosed with Valley Fever. Although I'm feeling better now, I was wondering if you can tell me more about the disease. Cooper

Dear Cooper:
Valley Fever is caused by a fungus that lives in the desert soil. Dogs contract Valley Fever when the spores of the fungus are disturbed by digging, walking, construction and even high winds.

The most common symptoms of Valley Fever are coughing, fever, weight loss, lack of appetite and lethargy. When the infection spreads outside of the lungs, symptoms can also manifest in lameness, seizures, swollen glands, skin ulcerations and or eye inflammation with cloudiness.

A trip to the vet will determine whether or not you have Valley Fever. The most common test involves a blood test, although sometimes chest x-rays are also called for. If you test positive for Valley Fever the most common treatment is an oral antifungal medication.

With proper treatment, most dogs fully recover from Valley Fever. If the infection is limited to the lungs the prognosis is best. In most cases, even if the infection has spread outside of the lungs, the majority of dogs respond well to medication. However, a small number of dogs may require lifelong medication and unfortunately, a small number die despite treatment. Followup blood tests will determine your progress as well as when to stop treatment. Relapses are possible, however medication is usually enough to combat the symptoms.

You can reduce the likelihood of contracting Valley Fever, by not digging, sniffing in rodent holes and staying indoors during period of high winds. Ground cover that keeps dust in check, like grass or deep layers of gravel can also be helpful. Currently scientists are working on a vaccine, that one day may prevent the contraction of this terrible disease.

Gus is a Senior Product Researcher at See Spot Shop at the Summit. Have a question for Gus? Send it to seespotshop@qwest.net, subject line - Gus.