Coccidioidomycosis: A Southwestern Hazard


If you reside in or journey to the Southwest, notably Texas, California, or Arizona, it is necessary that you recognize a few fungal an infection known as coccidioidomycosis. It is also called San Joaquin Fever or Valley Fever (VF). This fungus can pose a big risk to our canine companions, in addition to to their human counterparts. There are two well-known species Coccidioides immitis and C. posadasii.

Coccidioides species are a hardy fungus that stay within the soil. The dry, sizzling ambiance of the Sonoran life zone are good for it. High winds, mud storms, and earthquakes encourage the discharge and unfold of spores. Infection happens when the spores (known as arthroconidia) are inhaled. Lung illness develops after which spreads all through the physique to the lymph nodes and organs. Every system from the mind, pores and skin, eyes, and bones might be concerned. This is named systemic or disseminated an infection. Coccidioidomycosis could be a devastating illness. It is vital to know the development, signs, and remedy for this situation.

Valley Fever usually incubates within the physique for one to 3 weeks, however it could lie dormant for years earlier than signs develop. This makes it completely essential to all the time let your veterinarian know any journey historical past (together with in case your dog was adopted from one other space of the United States). It might not appear to be vital data, but it surely could possibly be life-saving.

Research signifies that the majority dogs residing in endemic areas are uncovered to Coccidioides species and clear the an infection with out vital sickness. They might develop delicate respiratory illness from which they recuperate with out particular remedy. A 2005 research confirmed that out of doors dogs have been about 5 occasions extra prone to contract this situation than indoor pets. Another research confirmed that dogs with higher than one acre of land on which to roam have been at elevated threat. Walking dogs on a sidewalk was protecting.

Life Cycle

In the desert, Coccidioides species exist as a mould. The mould is in lengthy, partitioned chains known as hyphae. These fragment into tiny, particular person arthroconidia, that are aerosolized beneath the appropriate situations (sizzling, dry, and windy) and inhaled by hosts together with dogs, cats, and people, settling within the lungs.

This new atmosphere induces them to endure a change. They flip into spherules that fill with endospores. Once full, the spherules rupture and launch the spores into surrounding tissue. The endospores can then flip into spherules themselves and propagate the an infection. This is why each system within the physique might be concerned.


The related signs are seen in each system from the mind to the bones. Initially, the fungus replicates within the lungs, resulting in pulmonary illness. In circumstances the place the illness doesn’t unfold past the lungs, the an infection is taken into account to be localized. It might be delicate or turn into pneumonia. Once the an infection spreads past the lungs and infects different techniques, it turns into disseminated.

The commonest preliminary signs are lack of urge for food, weight reduction, malaise, fever, and limping. The limping might shift from leg to leg. These are non-specific indicators and might be seen with different fungal infections reminiscent of blastomycosis, histoplasmosis, tick-borne ailments like Ehrlichia and Rocky Mountain noticed fever, and bone cancers reminiscent of osteosarcoma.

The following organ adjustments might be seen:

Lungs. As talked about above, a fungal an infection within the lungs may cause pulmonary illness and pneumonia.
Central nervous system (mind/spinal wire). Coccidioides within the central nervous system can result in seizures, behavioral adjustments, and lethargy.
Ocular. Uveitis is widespread with VF. The spores replicate within the eye tissue inflicting marked irritation and discomfort. Outwardly, you could discover a whitish or reddish haze over your dog’s eye, the white of the attention (sclera) might seem crimson, and weeping might happen. The eye might seem sunken/smaller than regular.
Bones. Valley Fever is especially damaging to the bones. Osteomyelitis (destruction of the bone because of the spores and irritation) can happen. It usually happens within the lengthy bones (the limbs), however it could have an effect on any bone within the physique. Radiographs (x-rays) often reveal a harmful lesion and a periosteal response – when the bone begins to attempt to heal the lesion by producing extra bone.

xray 300x210 - Coccidioidomycosis: A Southwestern HazardAn x-ray of a two-year-old Bloodhound with a veritable (and helpfully diagnostic) “fungal snowstorm” in his lungs, brought on by a Coccidioides an infection.

It is inconceivable to distinguish between metastatic most cancers and Valley Fever adjustments on x-rays, so that is when journey historical past, additional diagnostic testing, and different data reminiscent of signalment (age and breed) develop into completely important.

Cardiac. Coccidioides can have an effect on the guts tissue, resulting in pericarditis, a generalized time period for irritation of the guts muscle. It may also trigger an accumulation of fluid within the pericardium (the sac across the coronary heart). This is known as pericardial effusion. It may cause coronary heart failure shortly as a result of the guts can’t contract correctly.
Skin. Skin lesions are widespread with Valley Fever. These can appear like open, weeping sores and bumps. They might type anyplace on the physique. There could also be many or just a few.
Liver and kidney. Outward signs of liver issues brought on by Valley Fever can embody jaundice (yellow tint to the pores and skin), stomach distention, and vomiting; signs of kidney issues can embody elevated consuming and urinating.

VF: Difficult to Diagnose

Judd is a 10-year-old Labrador. He’s additionally a K9 Nose Work famous person. K9 Nose Work is a fast-growing dog sport, and Judd travels all around the U.S. and Canada to compete in K9 Nose Work trials along with his proprietor and coach, Stacy Barnett.

Stacy is devoted to her canine pal and pays shut consideration to his well being. That’s why when a lump popped up on Judd’s jaw, she instantly known as Judd’s veterinarian. During his check-up, a coronary heart murmur was additionally seen. Judd’s veterinarian thought it was a good suggestion to have the lump eliminated, however with a brand new coronary heart murmur – now what?

The plan was easy. Check out Judd’s coronary heart with an echocardiogram to verify he may deal with anesthesia, after which have surgical procedure to take away the lump. The echocardiogram report cleared him for surgical procedure. Off to the surgeon! Beforehand, the veterinarian advisable chest x-rays. This is widespread process for older dogs present process surgical procedure. Cancer is a frequent reason behind sickness in aged dogs, and it typically spreads to the lungs. Chest x-rays can decide if so earlier than costly and invasive surgical procedure is finished. They ought to all the time be thought of previous to anesthesia in older animals.

Stacy was not ready for what got here subsequent. The surgeon known as with devastating information. Judd’s chest seemed like “a snowstorm.” It needed to be most cancers. Or did it?

The surgeon advisable that the suspicious jaw lump be aspirated somewhat than eliminated. Maybe it was most cancers, and it had unfold to the lungs. She additionally talked about the potential of fungal ailments however thought this was much less doubtless. Stacy was fast to pipe up with the knowledge that she had traveled to the Southwest many occasions, and will this be Valley Fever? After listening to Stacy and doing a little fast analysis, the surgeon agreed that this was an vital rule-out.

The mass turned out to be a lipoma – a benign, fatty tumor. And the Valley Fever titer got here again weakly optimistic. Stacy was elated. But does this imply that Judd has Valley Fever? Or may he nonetheless have most cancers?

There’s no easy reply. Because Judd had a optimistic titer (albeit very weak), he was began on itraconazole. The optimistic titer signifies that his immune system has been uncovered to Coccidioides earlier than – however he was not essentially at present “infected.” That’s the issue with antibody titer assessments! Some very sick dogs have low titers, and a few wholesome dogs have excessive titers. Other methods to diagnose Judd would come with attempting to aspirate the nodules in his chest or any draining pores and skin lesions, conducting an enzyme immunoassay (EIA) take a look at, or gauging his response to antifungal remedy.

So far, Judd appears to be doing okay, however he nonetheless isn’t himself. He’s working slower, and his urge for food is down (a standard aspect impact of itraconazole). He’s been taking the antifungal for 2 weeks, so the jury continues to be out. Stacy is anxiously ready to see if he responds. She speaks along with her veterinarian incessantly as they monitor his progress. In the meantime, she provides him all of the love and snuggles and Nosework he’s up for!


Like many issues with Valley Fever, analysis isn’t easy. Any time a affected person presents with indicators of serious sickness, step one in figuring out the trigger is a radical bodily examination and historical past; the latter ought to all the time embody any journey and adoption/buy historical past.

A bodily examination ought to proceed in a scientific method from nostril to tail. This examination ought to embody full vitals,  together with weight and temperature.

Once these are achieved, a “minimum database” – a set of assessments that may present the physician with sufficient data to get him heading in the right direction – is often advisable. This typically features a full blood rely (CBC), chemistry panel, and urinalysis. A full blood rely evaluates the crimson blood cell, white blood cell, and platelet counts, in addition to whether or not the cells are regular in dimension and morphology.

In dogs with coccidioidomycosis, blood work adjustments can embody anemia, elevated white blood cells, and low platelets. These findings point out systemic irritation and an infection however are usually not particular to Valley Fever. A chemistry panel might present low albumin, an vital service protein, elevated globulins (proteins that battle an infection), and alterations in liver and kidney values, if these organs are concerned. Again, these findings are usually not particular to Valley Fever.

If limping or coughing is current, x-rays are often advisable. Both the lungs and bones can have marked adjustments which are very tough to distinguish from most cancers. In the lungs, giant, “fluffy” infiltrates might be seen. It is usually described as a snowstorm sample. Again, these look similar to most cancers. The lymph nodes within the chest may be enlarged (known as perihilar lymphadenomegaly). Again, this may be brought on by each fungal illness and most cancers. In the bones, the adjustments might embody destruction of the bone cortex with additional bone proliferation as mentioned above.

Urinalysis might confirmed elevated protein within the urine, however as with blood assessments, that is very non-specific.

As a end result, in case your veterinarian suspects Valley Fever, extra particular testing must be performed to make this analysis.

If draining pores and skin lesions are current, your veterinarian might take impression smears and aspirates. This is comparatively easy and non-invasive. A microscope slide might be pressed straight onto pores and skin lesions which are oozing. A small needle will also be launched and a pattern taken (known as a superb needle aspirate or FNA). Sometimes, the precise Coccidioides spores might be seen in these samples, together with extreme irritation.

If bone involvement is current, aspirates or biopsies of the bone might be taken and submitted to a pathologist. This is extra invasive than a pores and skin FNA and might be painful, so it must be finished beneath sedation or anesthesia. Bones affected with Valley Fever are weakened and in danger for fracture throughout this process. They may fracture with regular exercise reminiscent of strolling and working. This is known as a pathologic fracture.

A fungal tradition will also be finished. This is when the fungus is grown on a tradition medium. Ironically, Coccidioides might be tough to develop within the lab, and this take a look at can take as much as two weeks to point a optimistic end result. As a end result, it’s not probably the most helpful take a look at when attempting to make a fast analysis. Since Coccidioides is contagious to individuals, it have to be grown in a specialised, biohazard laboratory. It isn’t utilized for analysis.


Serologic testing is extra particular for Coccidioides. Serologic testing evaluates for the presence of antibodies produced by the immune system. Antibody manufacturing is a fancy course of, however it’s fascinating.

Any time a dog is uncovered to an attacker like a fungus, the immune system responds shortly. Because the offending organism will not be from the physique, it lacks acquainted markers on the cell surfaces. The immune system acknowledges this and assaults. Two explicit cells are crucial. B-cells assault the fungus straight by coating it with antibodies and stopping replication. It additionally tags the fungal our bodies in order that different immune system cells will acknowledge and destroy them.

Antigen-presenting cells (APCs) and T-cells are additionally vital. APCs break up the organism after which present the fragments to the T-cells, which then destroy them. After the risk has been neutralized, many of the immune cells disappear. The solely exception is reminiscence cells, which grasp round. These assist the immune system reply a lot sooner the subsequent time this organism is encountered.

dog 239x300 - Coccidioidomycosis: A Southwestern Hazard

Serologic testing takes benefit of our understanding of this course of. Your veterinarian will submit a blood pattern to a laboratory that may seek for antibodies which are particular for Coccidioides. The earliest antibodies produced are known as immunoglobulin M (IgM). These are discovered at excessive ranges in blood and lymph and reply earliest and quickest to infections. The outcomes are reported as a ratio.

A ratio of higher than 1:eight is taken into account proof of an infection. A ratio that’s higher than 1:32 doubtless signifies an lively, systemic an infection. IgM ranges rise inside two to 4 weeks of publicity after which shortly wane. They might be passed by 4 weeks.

Immunoglobulin G (IgG) is the second responding immunoglobulin and can last more than IgM –typically, it’s detectable for years after an infection. Often veterinarians suggest “paired” titers during which an early pattern is taken, after which one other is taken two weeks later to guage how the immune system is responding. This may also point out lively an infection. Oddly sufficient, it’s not all the time clear minimize. Dogs have can detrimental titers (the immune system doesn’t react) and nonetheless be contaminated. They may also have excessive titers with a comparatively delicate an infection. This is a part of what makes the analysis of this fungal invader so difficult.

Titer assessments for antibodies fashioned in response to Coccidioides are usually not 100% correct. No take a look at is. Other choices embody the EIA (antibody enzyme immunoassay) from MiraVista Diagnostics. This might be performed on samples as diverse as cerebrospinal fluid and urine. Unfortunately, it cross reacts with different fungal infections like blastomycosis and histoplasmosis, which even have related signs, so an actual analysis might not be attainable. This is when the dog’s journey historical past turns into essential.


Antifungal medication are used to focus on the Coccidioides fungus particularly. While antifungals are sometimes very efficient, they’ll trigger unintended effects, reminiscent of lack of urge for food, vomiting, lethargy, and elevated liver enzymes. The medication which are mostly used to deal with VF are:

Itraconazole. This medication is taken into account the drug of alternative. It’s a very good bit costlier than the second-best drug, nonetheless.
Ketoconazole. Usually probably the most cost-effective remedy alternative. Treatment is usually a minimal of three months and at the very least two months past the decision of apparent signs. With prolonged remedy, it could trigger cataract formation.
Fluconazole. Studies on the efficacy of this drug for Coccidioidomycosis are missing, but when different medication fail, it’s an choice.
Amphotericin B. This drug is usually used as a final resort in circumstances when the opposite medication listed have been ineffective.

For dogs with systemic involvement, remedy should even be focused on the affected organs.

In dogs with extreme lung illness, remedy might contain hospitalization for oxygen remedy, intravenous (IV) fluids to take care of hydration, IV antibiotics to fight secondary bacterial infections, steroids to reduce irritation secondary to fungal die-off (this will happens when antifungals are given and incite an amazing irritation response within the lungs).

In dogs with bone involvement, remedy should typically be very aggressive. If the fungus has destroyed bone sufficient to result in pathologic fractures, amputation could be the solely choice. In circumstances the place the bone is broken however not destroyed, the lesions will typically enhance with antifungal remedy, because the physique regenerates the broken bone.

In circumstances of ocular involvement with uveitis, prognosis for imaginative and prescient is guarded. Antifungals don’t penetrate into eye tissue very properly, and the eyes can function a everlasting nidus for an infection. This is painful. In these circumstances, enucleation (removing of the affected eye or eyes) is usually the one solution to rid the physique of Coccidioidomycosis.


In circumstances the place solely the lungs are concerned (localized an infection), response charges to remedy are as excessive as 90%. When different techniques are concerned, the prognosis drops to round 60%. Response to remedy depends on every dog’s immune system and might be very exhausting to foretell. The prognosis is worse if a number of bones and/or the central nervous system are concerned.

Once remedy is discontinued, Valley Fever can recur. It could be very exhausting to kill the organism completely and studies of recurrence years later and in numerous physique techniques are widespread.

The submit Coccidioidomycosis: A Southwestern Hazard appeared first on Whole Dog Journal.



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