Skip to Main Content
Ask About Financing

How to Prevent Valley Fever in Dogs

Valley Fever is prevalent across the Southwestern United States and infects people, dogs, cats, and livestock alike. In this article, our Boynton Beach vets discuss the causes, signs, treatment, and prevention of Valley Fever in dogs.

What is Valley Fever?

Coccidioidomycosis is a condition seen in dogs and people that goes by several different names including Valley Fever, desert rheumatism, San Joaquin Valley Fever, and California disease.

Valley Fever is caused by a fungus called Coccidioides immitis that lives in the soil and thrives in particular desert climates. In the U.S. Coccidioides immitis can be found in the low desert regions of Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and California.

Is Valley Fever contagious?

While valley fever is not directly contagious from one dog to another, it is possible for dogs to become infected if they are exposed to the same contaminated environment where the fungus is present.

It's important to note that humans can also contract valley fever from the same contaminated soil, so taking precautions to limit exposure for both dogs and humans in endemic areas is crucial.

However, on at least one good note, valley fever is not transferable between dogs and humans.

How do dogs contract Valley Fever?

Valley Fever is spread through the inhalation of fungal (Coccidioides immitis) spores. When the spores are inhaled by your dog, the fungus (Spherules) begins to grow in the lungs.

If your dog has a strong and healthy immune system, the body will fight off the fungus and they will not show any signs of Valley Fever.

However, if your dog is a young puppy, a senior dog, or has a compromised immune system, the spherules will continue to grow until they eventually burst, releasing hundreds of endospores that can spread throughout the lungs and other parts of your pet's body where the cycle will begin again.

Thankfully, Valley Fever is not contagious among dogs, so you don't have to worry about an infected dog passing it to other dogs in the house or other dogs in general.

Symptoms of Valley Fever in Dogs

In the early stages, when the spherules are contained within the lungs, symptoms of Valley Fever typically include fever, dry cough, decreased appetite, and lethargy.

Once the fungal spores have reached other parts of your dog's body more diverse symptoms may appear such as painful swollen joints, persistent fever, weight loss, eye inflammation, and blindness. In some very rare cases, if the fungus reaches the brain, Valley Fever can result in seizures.

Valley Fever in dogs can be serious, especially if left untreated. It is important to seek veterinary care promptly if you suspect your dog may have valley fever to prevent complications. 

Valley Fever Treatment

Antifungal medications are the primary treatment for Valley Fever in dogs. How long your dog will need to take these medications will depend upon the severity of your pup's condition.

In most cases, antifungal medications will need to be administered for 6-12 months, with an improvement in symptoms often being seen within a week or two. When Valley Fever has spread to other parts of the body, your dog may need to continue taking antifungal medications for life.

When diagnosed and treated early enough, many dogs recover well from Valley Fever. Dogs diagnosed with Valley Fever after the disease has spread to other parts of the body are more challenging to treat, and in some cases the disease becomes life-threatening.

How to Prevent Valley Fever in Dogs

Because the fungus that causes Valley Fever lives in dry, desert soil, the most common places for infection include Arizona, California, Utah, Texas, and Nevada. Luckily, there are several steps you can take to protect yourself and your pet from contracting Valley Fever.

  • Avoid non-landscaped areas and limit your dog's roaming to well-kept parks.
  • Take walks in paved areas and keep your dog on a leash.
  • If your dog likes digging, avoid desert areas.
  • If your home is in a desert area, keep your pet inside for a reasonable amount of time during the summer.
  • Learn to recognize the signs of Valley Fever and contact your vet immediately if your dog exhibits any symptoms.

Valley Fever Vaccination

There is a vaccine available to protect dogs against Valley Fever, making it much safer for dogs to roam in yards and other outdoor areas.

If you live in an area where the condition is common, it’s best to vaccinate your pup on the recommended schedule — likely once or twice a year after the initial dose and booster. There are minimal side effects, and the hope is the vaccine will be approved for manufacture within the year.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Has your dog been showing signs of Valley Fever? Contact our Boynton Beach vets right away to have your pup diagnosed and treated!

New Patients Welcome

Coral Breeze Animal Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Boynton Beach companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

Contact Us

Book Online (561) 738-9400