Veterinarian - San Diego
1540 Morena Boulevard
San Diego, CA 92110

619-275-0888

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By Heather Beeson of Morena Pet Hospital
August 16, 2012
Category: Uncategorized
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Taking a road trip with your pet seems simple enough, right?  You put your pet in the back seat, shut the car door, and you are off.  It also makes those long cross-country travel experiences more fun and enjoyable for the whole family.  Glenn and Dianna thought they would just be taking another scenic vacation with their dogs--stopping in Arizona, California, and making their way up the west coast, back to their home in Canada.  While traveling with your pet seems harmless enough, these pet parents found out this is not always the case.

Unfortunately, Ema, one of Glenn and Dianna’s four labs had become ill during the trip and was experiencing difficulty breathing and a hard time swallowing her food.  When her symptoms continued to progress, Glenn and Dianna decided to seek veterinary care.  She presented to us here at Morena Pet Hospital, in which routine diagnostic tests were run as well as x-rays. After evaluation, she was prescribed antibiotics and a cough suppressant.  Dr. Potter requested that Glenn and Dianna continue to monitor Ema as they pressed on with their drive back to Canada and to keep in touch with regards to how she was doing. 

It seemed by the time they had reached Washington; Ema had taken a turn for the worse.  They quickly made an appointment with a local vet there and mentioned that Ema’s cough had not been improving with medications.  She was still suffering from a non-productive cough, retch, and gag motion.  Dr. Potter had remained in the loop as promised and wanted to rule out fungal pneumonia.  She recommended the veterinarian there in Washington to repeat the x-rays and run a few additional diagnostic panels to test for fungal diseases including aspergillus, blastomyces, coccidiomycosis, and histoplasma.   Sure enough, Ema had tested positive for coccidioides!  Ema was started on a prolonged period of an anti-fungal medication (fluconozole) for one month beyond resolution of her clinical signs and continued taking the cough syrup on an as needed basis (mostly at night when her cough seemed the most agitated). 

Ema had developed a systemic fungal infection Coccidioidmycosis, more commonly called Desert Fever or Valley Fever.  This fungus is acquired from the environment and is typically found in sandy, desert regions of the southwest United States, most prevalent in Southern California, Arizona, and southwest Texas.  The infection originates in the lungs and has a tendency to spread to the lymph nodes, bones, and other organs if left untreated.  Many pet owners, especially those just passing through these desert areas, would think nothing of their dog nosing around in the sand and underbrush or being caught in a dust storm, leaving many pets, especially dogs, susceptible to inhaling this fungal organism. 

If you are traveling with your pets in these southwest desert regions and they begin to exhibit any of the following symptoms, please seek veterinary care as soon as possible.

  • Coughing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fever
  • Bone swelling or lameness
  • Extreme weight loss
  • Lethargy
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Skin lesions

References:

Dunham, A., RVT and Guptill, L., DVM, PhD, DACVIM. Coccidioidomycosis. Saunders Small Animal Practice Client Handouts. Elsevier, Inc. 2011.

Tilly, Larry P. and Smith, Jr., Francis W.K. Disease Caused by Coccidioides, A Type of Fungus (Coccidioidomycosis). Blackwell’s Five Minute Veterinary Consult: Canine and Feline. Blackwell Publishing, 2008.

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