Dogs can get Valley Fever from our desert soil; so do your homework - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Community Focus

Dogs can get Valley Fever from our desert soil; so do your homework

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Mark Siebel

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Posted: Thursday, April 12, 2012 2:14 pm | Updated: 10:53 am, Tue Sep 25, 2012.

The one thing I’ve learned in my 40 years of living is that effective problem solving, whether it be personal or business, will ultimately come from YOU. The more you are prepared from your own research and detective work the better off you will be to diagnose or determine where your paths in life will lead you. I say this based on the unfortunate diagnosis of Valley Fever (VF) of my 4-year-old, male Australian Shepherd, Kugel, last year. He is doing great now, and I am very fortunate that we caught it when we did.

VF (a.k.a. Coccidioidomycosis) is a systematic fungal infection that is endemic to the states of California, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, New Mexico and Texas. These fungal organisms live in the desert soil and are easily disrupted. VF is generally transmitted through inhalation and is NOT contagious. A common way to detect the strength of your dog’s immune system is with a Titer Levels Test, which checks the levels of a dog’s immune defense. This test will show any unbalance of your dog’s immune system to any given viral disease (http://www.canine-epilepsy-guardian-angels.com/titer_test.htm for more info.).

1. VF symptoms. Some VF symptoms include coughing, lameness, joint swelling, lethargy, anorexia, weight loss, and fever. Initially, Kugel’s symptoms did not appear too major to me, so I didn’t consider VF to be present. I had his hips X-rayed and it came back negative and his weight loss I concluded was from him being an overactive work dog. With no real directives from my vets to get a Titer Test, I learned that it’s better to error on the side of caution, even with a VF Titer test costing around $135. However, I’m glad I did. The test came back positive with a Titer of 1:256 (the highest it goes).

2. VF treatments. The most common remedy for treating VF is Fluconazole (Diflucan). Most dogs will require two pills per day (based on body weight), ranging anywhere from 50 mg -200 mg. The usual dose for dogs is 5 to 6 mg per pound (10 to 12 mg/kg) per day orally.

Average treatment time is eight to 12 months with some dogs needing longer treatment times or even lifetime treatment. Vet visits every three months will be required to monitor Titer levels. Fluconazole belongs to a general class of drugs known as antifungals. Other related drugs in this class include: Voriconazole, Posiconazole, Miconazole, Itraconazole (Sporanox) and Ketoconazole (Nizoral).

It’s been almost a year since Kugel’s VF diagnosis and his Titer is now down to 1:36 from his original 1:256. I am very fortunate that the VF was detected at his young age and while he was still in strong health. I learned from this experience to NEVER underestimate any minor symptoms that your dog displays and to ALWAYS insist on reasonable tests to determine any infections/diseases that your dog may have.

•Mark Siebel is owner of DOGGIE STEPS Dog Training, LLC. He has trained more than 400 Valley dogs, speaks regularly at local schools about the importance of dog safety and ownership, and donates time to youths wanting to learn more about dogs. Siebel is a member of the Arizona Professional Pet Sitters Association and Australian Shepherd Club of Arizona. Contact him at (602) 318-0122 or www.DoggieStepsDogTraining.com.

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