What is Valley Fever?

Valley Fever is the common name for a fungal infection known as coccidioidomycosis. It is an infection caused by the fungus Coccidioides. The fungus is known to live in the soil in the southwestern United States, primarily in the low desert regions of Arizona, New Mexico and southwestern Texas and the central deserts of California. Valley Fever is not contagious, as it is contracted upon inhalation of the fungal spores. When it’s inhaled, the spores change form within the tissues of the body and develop into infection. Humans and animals can contract Valley Fever. Most cases have no symptoms (which is why diagnosis can be difficult) while others may take months and even sometimes over a year to manifest. The chronic forms of Valley Fever may last years.

How Do Animals Get Valley Fever?

Valley Fever develops when the airborne spores of the Coccidioides fungus are inhaled. The spores are carried in dust particles from the soil by the wind when the desert soil is disturbed. Animals are equally susceptible to Valley Fever as people are. Pets accompanying people traveling through endemic areas or wintering in these warm climates have about the same chance as their owners of becoming infected.

There is not one singular way to prevent Valley Fever in pets with the exception of avoiding living in or traveling to the areas where the fungus grows. However, there are things you can do to reduce the likelihood of your pet’s exposure to the fungus, including:

  • Avoid activities that generate dust
  • Reduce digging behavior by dogs
  • Prevent sniffing in rodent holes
  • Keep dogs indoors more than outdoors

Symptoms of Valley Fever

Patients are commonly misdiagnosed as pneumonia, as there are several similar symptoms including:

  • Coughing
  • Fever
  • Weight loss
  • Lack of appetite
  • Lack of energy
  • Abscesses and swelling under the skin

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If your pet is experiencing any of these symptoms, download this PDF to take to your veterinarian.

Testing and Treatment

Early detection and accurate diagnosis are critical for improved outcomes.  MiraVista Diagnostics offers several testing options for accurately detecting Valley Fever.

If you think your pet has Valley Fever, ask your veterinarian to order one of these tests: