Valley fever is a disease we commonly hear about occurring in people, and assembly member Rudy Salas even introduced legislation this week aimed at combating valley fever. But our four-legged family members are seeing an increase in valley fever cases too.
Valley fever is an infection caused by a fungus in the soil causing any animal to get that disease just like any human can. Veterinarians around Kern County have seen an increase in dogs being diagnosed with valley fever in the past three months. “There are spores for the valley fever they stay dormant in the soil and after rain they basically germinate to the infective stage,” said Teg Sidhu, practice owner and vet for At the Oaks Pet Hospital.
So with the combination of rain and dust storms seen in the Southwest regions of the nation those spores can become airborne leading to not only humans but pets ingesting them and becoming sick. And symptoms can appear a week after ingestion. “They may see a little bit of fever the dog is sluggish, it can go into the lungs and cause pneumonia there so they start coughing and they are lethargic or in fever and in severe cases from there on the disease can be spread to other organs too like the spleen, bones and liver, the eyes, any organ,” said Sidhu
Symptoms that Lisa Fitchpatrick saw in her dog Sophie, she was diagnosed with valley fever two months ago. “Shocked, I thought she had kennel cough, she had this horrible cough, she wasn't around any other dogs so I don't know how she could have gotten it,” said Lisa Fitchpatrick, owner of Sophie. “But then when they said valley fever I didn't even know dogs could get valley fever."
Now Sophie has to be on antibiotics that she takes once a day, causing not only the medicine, but the bills to pile up, paying between seven-hundred and one-thousand dollars. Fitchpatrick even had to give Sophie shots of narcotics to calm the disease down. But to the Fitchpatrick’s Sophie is part of the family. “She's worth it, if it was our kids we would have spent it no problem,” said Fitchpatrick.
The high bills don't just come from the cost of treatment, hey also come from the cost of diagnosing it. X-rays, biopsies, and blood tests are all necessary to determine if a dog is infected. And in some cases dogs only need treatment for a year, but in other cases their treatment will be indefinite. And Fitchpatrick still has four months to see how long Sophie will need treatment for.
Even with Sophie’s diagnosis Fitchpatrick is determined to make sure she can be the one-hundred pound something lap dog that she thinks she is. “She warns me when things are there, she sleeps with me, pushes the husband out of the way and gets in the middle cause she's the queen,” says Fitchpatrick.
The only way to prevent your dog from getting valley fever is to keep them inside right after rain and dust storms. And if your dog has a cough that has lasted longer than a week you may want to take them to the vet because they could have valley fever.