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Canine Valley Fever


Guest azlorenz
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Guest azlorenz

Hi, I'm starting on my personal crusade to increase public awareness on Valley Fever in memory of my 4 yr. old greyhound Jeffrey who died on 8/16/03 due to complications of Valley Fever. I think the majority of us know that we should have our dogs tick tested especially when they come down with an unidentifiable illness. However, if a dog has been RAISED IN, RACED IN, LIVED IN OR RETIRED in the desert southwest you should also keep Valley Fever in mind. We are reaching epidemic proportions in the State of Arizona alone. Some local vets say they are seeing as much as a 60% increase is diagnosis. Most of you will never have to even think about this nasty fungus but those who have dogs living in or coming out of the desert southwest should always keep it in mind.

 

The following is a brief primer on the topic. For more information and links, please check out my website Casa de Lorenz.

 

Canine Valley Fever

 

The desert southwest (Arizona, New Mexico, Southern California, and Southeast Texas) is a hotbed for coccidiodomycosis. "Cocci" or "Valley Fever" is a fungus that lives in the desert soil and forms spores when released into the air. Spores are released when the contaminated soil is disturbed by construction, farming, etc., and thereafter, the spores are distributed by the wind. Due to increased construction in the East Valley alone, last year there was a dramatic increase in the number of dogs infected with Valley Fever. Some speculate it to be an increase of as much as 60% Periods of rain, which cause fungal growth, are usually followed by more cases diagnosed also. The spores are inhaled by man, dogs, and horses (cats seem to be somewhat resistant), causing the disease, Valley Fever. Valley Fever does not age discriminate - any dog who breathes air in an endemic region can get it. Even dogs accompanying people traveling through these areas or wintering in these warm climates have about the same chance as their owners of being exposed. Valley Fever is not contagious to other pets or family members. Valley Fever is only acquired from the environment. Many dogs in this part of the country become infected with Valley Fever, but do not become visibly ill or have only mild symptoms that are overlooked by owners. In most cases, only a mild respiratory inflammation occurs as the dogs’ defense mechanisms ward off the organisms. However, a lot of dogs are not so lucky and get very sick from the fungus. In severe cases, the disease can spread throughout the lungs and invade other organs. Once the spore has been breathed into the lungs, the spore transforms itself into a larger, multi-cellular structure called a spherule. The spherule grows and will eventually burst, releasing lots of small endospores. These develop into new spherules, and the cycle repeats again and again. This is how the fungus can be spread from the lungs through the bloodstream to other organs.

 

Symptoms to Watch For:

 

Swelling of Joints

Poor Appetite or Anorexia

Weight Loss

Chronic Coughing

Skin Abscesses

Limping or lameness

Bone Pain

Spinal Pain

Incoordination

Seizures

Swollen Lymph Nodes

 

If your pet is exhibiting any of the signs listed above, you should contact your veterinarian as soon as possible. Catching the disease a few weeks early may save months or years of treatment down the road.

 

The good news is that most dogs, with adequate Antifungal therapy such as Fluconazole (Diflucan), Itraconazole (Sporanox), Ketoconazole (Nizoral), do recover from this disease. The majority are able to get off medication and live a normal life. They are probably immune for the rest of their lives from a new infection, though sometimes an animal will have an old infection become active again. A small portion of animals must take medication for life, and another small portion, unfortunately, will die of Valley Fever in spite of aggressive drug treatment. This most commonly happens when there is a disseminated infection.

 

Thank you for taking the time to read this post.

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Thanks for sharing this. A human friend of my dad's had it. Treatment for 2+ years, nearly died, some permanent damage to his lungs. Very scary.

Star aka Starz Ovation (Ronco x Oneco Maggie*, litter #48538), Coco aka Low Key (Kiowa Mon Manny x Party Hardy, litter # 59881), and mom in Illinois
We miss Reko Batman (Trouper Zeke x Marque Louisiana), 11/15/95-6/29/06, Rocco the thistledown whippet, 04/29/93-10/14/08, Reko Zema (Mo Kick x Reko Princess), 8/16/98-4/18/10, the most beautiful girl in the whole USA, my good egg Joseph aka Won by a Nose (Oneco Cufflink x Buy Back), 09/22/2003-03/01/2013, and our gentle sweet Gidget (Digitizer, Dodgem by Design x Sobe Mulberry), 1/29/2006-11/22/2014, gone much too soon. Never forgetting CJC's Buckshot, 1/2/07-10/25/10.

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Guest azlorenz

It is one nasty disease that I don't wish on anyone. If I can save just one family the grief that we have suffered, my campaign has been a success.

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Jaeger is still battling VF for nearly a year now. It has reached her brain. She is taking Fluconazole, Phenobarbitol, Potassium Bromide and vitamin C twice a day. It is very important to add the vit C because it help to asbsorb the fluconazole into the system. Jaeger has her good days and her bad days. About a month ago I was preparing to put her down. But now, she seems to be on the upswing. We have had a long hard haul fighting this. And we still have a long and hard road ahead.

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Guest azlorenz

My thoughts and prayers are with both you and Jaeger. I remember the day to day ups and downs and they were emotionally exhausting. Please remember to take care of yourself too Kim.

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Shannon,

Thanks for posting this info. We don't seem to have a problem w/ this yet in Orange County, but so many of the dogs we get from Caliente come from AZ tracks and could have been exposed. :( Have started a new file with this data. Greyt way to honor your sweet Bridge kid. :beatheart

Jeanne with Remington & Scooter the cat
....and Beloved Bridge Angels Sandee, Shari, Wells, Derby, Phoenix, Jerry Lee and Finnian.....
If tears could build a stairway, and memories a lane, I'd walk right up to heaven
and bring you home again.

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Guest azlorenz
Shannon,

Thanks for posting this info.  We don't seem to have a problem w/ this yet in Orange County, but so many of the dogs we get from Caliente come from AZ tracks and could have been exposed.  :( Have started a new file with this data.  Greyt way to honor your sweet Bridge kid.  :beatheart

If you need more info, etc., please let me know. It is so scary to think that a dog could have passed through Arizona and ended up in another part of the country with symptoms and his humans have no clue Valley Fever exists. Everytime I read a post about a dog in another part of the country having strange symptoms, etc., my first question is if they know whether he was ever in the Desert Southwest. And with greyhounds tracking their past can be so hard to do. :(

 

I'll do my best to try and get the word out there.

Edited by azlorenz
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If you need more info, etc., please let me know.

How is a definitive diagnosis made? Blood test? X-ray of lungs? UA? Do you have info about this aspect? :unsure

Jeanne with Remington & Scooter the cat
....and Beloved Bridge Angels Sandee, Shari, Wells, Derby, Phoenix, Jerry Lee and Finnian.....
If tears could build a stairway, and memories a lane, I'd walk right up to heaven
and bring you home again.

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If I remember right, the TBD panel that Protatek does covers Valley Fever too. I'll go look quick & make sure :)

 

edited to add from the TBD pinned thread:

 

ProtaTek Labs does a tick panel that includes erlichiosis, babesiosis, rocky mountain spott fever, lymne disease and valley fever for $53. This price is for greys ONLY.

Edited by Burpdog

Diane & The Senior Gang

Burpdog Biscuits

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Guest azlorenz

Burpdog is correct, ProtaTek Labs does include Valley Fever in their tick panel for $53. This price is for greys ONLY

 

Diagnosis and Treatment

 

The diagnosis of Canine Valley Fever is made by the symptoms the dog is having:

 

Symptoms to Watch For:

 

Swelling of Joints

Poor Appetite or Anorexia

Weight Loss

Chronic Coughing

Skin Abscesses

Limping or lameness

Bone Pain

Spinal Pain

Incoordination

Seizures

Swollen Lymph Nodes

 

and results of blood tests which measure the levels of Valley Fever antibodies produced by the dog’s immune system. Other diagnostic testing may be required, including but not limited to other blood tests, x-rays of the chest and/or any painful or swollen bones or joints, etc. PLEASE NOTE: Antibody testing may be negative early in the disease and repeating them in 3-4 weeks is sometimes necessary.

 

Valley Fever is classified as either "primary" or "disseminated" disease. Early symptoms typically occur about 3 weeks after infection. In dogs, Valley Fever commonly spreads to other parts of the body. When this happens, the dog has what is referred to as disseminated disease, which means that there are fungus cocci throughout the body. These dogs will almost certainly die without treatment. Occasionally, the fungal infection may reach the brain causing seizures.

 

The good news is that most dogs, with adequate Antifungal therapy such as Fluconazole (Diflucan), Itraconazole (Sporanox), Ketoconazole (Nizoral), do recover from this disease. The majority are able to get off medication and live a normal life. They are probably immune for the rest of their lives from a new infection, though sometimes an animal will have an old infection become active again. A small portion of animals must take medication for life, and another small portion, unfortunately, will die of Valley Fever in spite of aggressive drug treatment. This most commonly happens when there is a disseminated infection.

 

Very ill dogs may require hospitalization and intravenous antifungal therapy with Fluconazole or Amphotericin B. Please note, however, that Amphotericin B has the serious drawback of toxicity to the kidney and the risk vs. benefit need to be weighed. There are also many people who have used herbs, vitamins, sulfer, MSM, and other non-pharmaceutical treatments in conjunction with antifungal medications with success.

 

Some dogs may relapse when the antifungal drugs are withdrawn due to the drugs’ actions being "fungiSTATIC". This means that the drug does not kill the fungus, but merely keeps it from reproducing, leaving it up to the body’s immune system to get rid of the fungus. Therefore, it is very important to continue medicating your dog as directed until the veterinarian confirms that the blood tests are negative and tells you to stop medication. Stopping medication too soon can be detrimental.

Edited by azlorenz
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Some dogs may relapse when the antifungal drugs are withdrawn due to the drugs’ actions being "fungiSTATIC". This means that the drug does not kill the fungus, but merely keeps it from reproducing, leaving it up to the body’s immune system to get rid of the fungus. Therefore, it is very important to continue medicating your dog as directed until the veterinarian confirms that the blood tests are negative and tells you to stop medication. Stopping medication too soon can be detrimental.

 

This is what happened with my Jaeger. The titer came back negative and we discontinued medication. After 3 months, her seizures started. So we are back to square one with this fungus now in her brain. I don't care if the titer comes back negative before 1 full year of treatment, you still give the meds for at least 1 year. I learned that the hard way.

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Guest azlorenz

I totally agree Kim. When I consulted with Dr. Suzanne Stack in Yuma, she prepared me for the fact that Jeffrey would be on meds forever and to not waste my money on more titer testing until after 1 year had passed as she rather me spend my $$$ on medication. His titer was 1:64, however, we later found it had already desimminated to his organs, mainly to his liver. I look back and go woulda, coulda, shoulda but hind sight is always 20:20. I feel for you Kim. Take care of yourself.

 

P.S. If you are ever out at any of the Meet n' Greets and see a crazy lady forcing Valley Fever literature on peope it's probably me. Come say "hi". :) Only one who has been through this can understand.

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Guest Longlegged beastie

Dusty has been on ketoconozole for VF for nearly a year now and doing very well. Im glad we caught it very early..he had a mild joint soreness in his hips, but since this is Arizona, we had him tested right away and sure enough, it was VF. We are hopeful that he can stop the meds soon, they are a bit expensive, but its worth it to have him happy and comfortable.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I'm a human survivor of this nasty disease. I'm so happy that you're bring this to everyones' attention. The University of Arizona in Tucson is doing a lot of research on VF & have started testing a vaccine I believe. Hopefully there will be some help out there for our canine companions. :(

Carol-Glendale, AZ

Trolley (Figsiza Trollyn)

Nevada 1992-2008...always in my heart

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Guest AlabamaGrey

OMG!! I've never heard of this disease. How horrible! I'm so sorry for you. My family is going to SW Texas next month and taking the dogs. This makes me very nervous. I'm glad to know about it now, and I know what symptoms to watch for.

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Guest gryhoundgirl
I totally agree Kim. When I consulted with Dr. Suzanne Stack in Yuma, she prepared me for the fact that Jeffrey would be on meds forever and to not waste my money on more titer testing until after 1 year had passed as she rather me spend my $$$ on medication. His titer was 1:64, however, we later found it had already desimminated to his organs, mainly to his liver. I look back and go woulda, coulda, shoulda but hind sight is always 20:20. I feel for you Kim. Take care of yourself.

 

P.S. If you are ever out at any of the Meet n' Greets and see a crazy lady forcing Valley Fever literature on peope it's probably me. Come say "hi". :) Only one who has been through this can understand.

Help!!!!! my timmy was diagnosed two years ago with VF. We we started this battle my vet had no idea what my baby had. We live in seattle and they never see valley fever and if they do they don't know how to treat it. we first got xrays and found he had a lession on his hip, we did a biopsy and it came back with valley fever. His titer was 1:32 then we started him on Diflucan. then we tested every 6 months and it was going down, down , down. i was so excited then for no reason his last blood test jumped to 1:64. Boo hoo. he also tested positive for another infective process. i am at a dead end and don't know what to do. my vet is making some calls to arizona vets and is going to call me back. my timmy is acting fine and is eatting and getting around as usual. but i don't know what to do and i want to be agressive about this and start some treatment soon. please if anyone has any advice please fill me in. i am open to anything.

thanks

Heidi

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Guest azlorenz

Please note that the Valley Fever Center referenced above is mainly for human research. They do have a vet on staff to answer questions and take data but little else. They work in conjunction with the Valley Fever Vaccine Project so are research oriented not treatment.

Edited by azlorenz
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Guest DemasMom

I wanted to add to this discussion that out here in AZ it is thought that *ALL* dogs are infected by the fungus that causes Valley Fever but that it is the state of the immune system which determines whether or not the animal develops symptoms. I've read of some recent studies on homopathic remedies which resulted in the thought that they can actually destroy the fungus rather than suppress the symptom of the disease like the traditional medicine (Nizoral). The treatment is also done with out the addition of steroids. For anyone who needs information on this I would look into contacting Dr. Lisa S. Newman N.D., Ph.D. (She is also the developer of Azmira dog food (www.azmira.com - don't know if she can be contacted there or not) and her company puts out a Valley Fever Kit containing herbal remadies) She wrote an article on VF and the study results in Natural Pet Magazine Spring Issue 1995 if anyone can find it.

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