Dog Owners Nightmare : Valley Fever

IMG_4879Back in February Brody and I went on a trip to Utah for a week, when we returned his stool was loose and he was less excited about eating than typically. I figured he caught something from another dog at a daycare facility so brought him to the vet. The VCA Vet did a few tests and gave him medication for what she figured was parasites even though he had a fever of 103.5 ( The normal range is 101-102.5). A week later, he was refusing to eat his food, had stopped pooping and the vet contributed this to the medication. I demanded they do a full check up and the vet realized he had a fever that was reaching 105.3 … I had to take him to the emergency room where they gave him an IV drip and ran more parasitic tests. Tests came up negative and they wanted to do a spinal tap, joint tap and were scaring me with the possibility it was cancer (The prices were in the thousands). I took him home, kept him in AC with cool compress on his head and opted for a second opinion. As quickly as possible, I went to a new vet who recommended a new Internal Specialist at Access Specialty Hospital in torrance, CA.

IMG_5119He had lost 20lbs by this point, was too weak to stand, was extremely lethargic (wouldn’t play) and the only way we could get him to eat was hand-feeding him cooking salmon or ground meat. We had to release him to the hospital for IV drips and 24 monitoring, because we couldn’t keep his fever below 105.5 (106 degrees is deadly and can cause brain damage). The new internal specialist recommended a new X-Ray to get a better view of his chest because he was wheezing when he breathed. In the new scan they caught a break and found a lump in his lympnode area next to the lungs. We tested for a variety of funguses which took another week to come back with results. He tested positive for Valley Fever and Aspergillus.

IMG_5121

Most grocery stores and pharmacy’s quoted me 1.5-2k for the specific anti fungal medicine. Thank god Costco has bulk savings – I was able to get 2 months of his meds for only $600. He is back to normal now and healthy, but I can’t help but think how Brody would have been dead by now if I didn’t get a second opinion. The original X-Ray from the first Vet could have prevented it – the lump was there but the radiologist couldn’t see because of movement distorting the picture.

Valley Fever

Valley Fever in dogs, also known as coccidioidomycosis, is a diseased caused by a fungus called Coccidioides immitis. The disease has several other names, including Desert Rheumatism, San Joaquin Valley Fever, and California Disease. The fungus is common in the hot, dry climates of the southwestern United States, Central America, and parts of South America. Usually the fungus stays buried in soil where it is dormant, but when it rains, the fungus becomes active and spreads. Anything that kicks up the soil, like running or construction can cause spores to be released from the ground. When dogs breathe these spores in, they can become infected. Many infected dogs don’t show any symptoms of Valley Fever, but some become severely ill. Dogs that suffer from Valley Fever often develop respiratory problems, and in some dogs, the disease can be fatal.

Here are some of the symptoms seen in dogs that suffer from Valley Fever.

  • Fever – Brody had this
  • Shortness of breath, rapid breathing, or difficulty breathing – Brody had this
  • Coughing –  Brody had this but it was more of a wheezing
  • Loss of appetite – Brody had this
  • Weakness
  • Lethargy – Brody had this
  • Diarrhea – Brody had this
  • Vomiting
  • Lameness
  • Swollen joints or bones
  • Swollen lymph nodes – X-Ray led to accurate diagnosis
  • Neck or back pain
  • Seizures
  • Changes in vision
  • Inflammation of the eyes
  • Oozing sores on the skin – Brody was having hotspots
  • Weight loss – Brody had this
  • Heart failure

Again this is common in Arizona and Utah, places Brody had been a few months prior, but recently California has had a few cases with no connection to those areas. If you see the signs of Valley Fever in your dog, consult your veterinarian right away so they can form a proper diagnosis and prescribe treatment.

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