Rain may bring in some cooler temps, but it can also increase your chances of encountering Valley Fever. Although Valley Fever is not contagious among animals and humans, it’s still important to be aware of your pet’s surroundings as the fungus is very prevalent in Arizona’s desert landscape, especially during the wet months, like monsoon season.
Although you can’t fully prevent your pet from contracting Valley Fever, there are steps that each pet owner can take to decrease their chances. Here are tips from the Arizona Animal Welfare League (AAWL) experts to keep your pets happy and healthy.
Rain makes the fungus grow within the soil and the tiny spores become airborne when disturbed by winds, construction or digging. If spores are inhaled they could infect the lungs.
Valley Fever symptoms can include a dry cough, loss of appetite and lethargy. These signs usually appear around three weeks after infection, though occasionally the disease can lay dormant in the body for years before any symptoms occur. If treated appropriately, pets can typically fully-recover from Valley Fever.
Only 40% of animals and people who inhale the spores will become sick, but younger and senior pets are more at risk because of weakened immune systems.
There are simple steps to decrease your pet’s chances of contracting Valley Fever. Avoid long walks or durations outside when there’s a storm or windy weather. Be sure to also keep your windows closed during windy weather to prevent spores entering your home. Dogs love playing in the dirt, so try to stop them from digging in the dirt if it has rained recently.
If you suspect your pet might have Valley Fever, it’s time to bring them to your vet. A blood test will confirm, and if it needs treatment, dogs are usually given oral antifungal medication. If symptoms progress and the fungal infection enters their bones/joints, more treatment may be needed. Fungal infections can take a long time to cure but the prognosis is good if the infection remains in the lungs.
Because symptoms don’t always show up right away, AAWL recommends that you follow these tips and schedule regular vet visits, and to prevent other infectious diseases, make sure your pets receive all recommended vaccines. AAWL offers low-cost vet clinics and monthly vaccination clinics. For more information, visit aawl.org.
Kimberly Vermillion is director of communications at Arizona Animal Welfare League.