The actual infection of Valley Fever starts when the spores are inhaled into the lungs, and these spores change then reproduce. These spores can move to the bone causing painful lesions, or they can move even further into the central nervous system and cause seizures. The most common symptoms of the infection can start as early as three weeks after exposure, and can manifest as:
* Lack of appetite & energy
* Weight loss
Valley Fever is not considered to be a contagious disease, as it can only be acquired if the spores are inhaled. It is not spread from animal to animal or animal to human. It is possible within a household of multiple pets for only one to contract Valley Fever, and this is due to each pet’s immune system working differently.
Pets are normally diagnosed with Valley Fever through a lab work panel, which takes a few days to accumulate results. This test also checks for other abnormalities in the body, such as kidney and liver function, thyroid function, and a complete blood count. If the test does come back positive, it will be important to know all of these extra values before starting medication. Further diagnostics may be indicated depending on the severity of the infection, and these may include radiographs of the chest or of affected limbs.
Fluconazole, an antifungal medication, is used to treat patients who are positive for Valley Fever. This drug takes time to work, which can be years in a lot of cases, because the fungus is so hardy. If the patient has it in the bone or central nervous system, treatment is much longer. Something to note is that the Valley Fever infection is not cleared up when the symptoms subside – the only way to know is to continue medication every day as directed and follow-up with the labwork as directed.
Compliance is very important, as the best outcome for Valley Fever is when the medication is given as directed and follow-up labwork is performed on time and on a regular basis. At the early stages of diagnosis and treatment, it is common for blood to be drawn every three to six months, then at least once yearly afterward.
If your pet exhibits any of the symptoms listed above, please contact your veterinarian immediately as prompt diagnosis and treatment is the best-case scenario.