Tuesday, January 22, 2013

VALLEY FEVER - A SCURGE IN THE DOG WORLD



The Boy in his comfy place on the couch before his bout with Valley Fever

About 4 weeks ago, I noticed Angel was coughing just a little, usually after he drank or ate. For a week he seemed fine. Then I noticed he was a bit lethargic. Now that’s saying something for a greyhound, since he sleeps most of the day away anyway. Then I noticed he had lost weight. Then the shaking started. While he was shaking I was petting him to sooth him, and I noticed he was as hot as a furnace. Then he stopped eating. This all happened within 24 hours. The next day, when went into the vet he didn’t even hang his head out the window when I had it open. He was not the least bit interested in anything but lying down.

They kept the office open late for me because I was working until 5. Saying, “if you are concerned enough to call us, you should probably bring him in, especially with the holiday coming up.” They all noticed something was wrong the minute we walked through the door. After the exam we had x-rays and blood work done. I rapidly learned The Boy is a bit of a pansy when it comes to needles. Yes, there were greyhound screams of death involved.

The bloodwork wouldn’t be available until the following Wednesday, due to the New Year’s Eve holiday. The x-rays showed possible nodules on his lungs, but nothing concrete. So we got a steroid to help his appetite and an antibiotic.

We got through the weekend and holiday, with him maintaining, maybe declining just a bit. We were the first clients in to the vets for 2013 and since we ended 2012 as the last patients they had, I thought it only fitting.

The Boy had lost another 4 pounds. The blood work came back perfect, the Valley Fever titer – negative. New Doc went back over the x-rays on a consult with Old Doc. He might have a very slightly enlarged heart, but that should not be cause for concern. Another set of antibiotics and sent home with explicit instructions to watch him closely for any signs of decline.

I watched as he maintained for 2 more days. Then Friday night/Saturday morning he nose-dived and Saturday morning brought evidence of a very sick dog. His eyes were only partially open though he was fully awake and he couldn’t focus. He didn’t seem to be able to get his legs to function. He would start to do a full body shake then stop like it was painful. At first I told myself that I was being paranoid and dreaming things up. Then I trusted that I knew my dog and there was something wrong. A call to my vet’s cell phone (yup, I now have my vet’s cell phone number.) resulted in a left message, understandable for very early on a Saturday morning. It was now decision time – take him into an emergency vet where they don’t know him and don’t have his records or wait until Monday to take him into my vet.



He lost about 10 pounds in just a couple of weeks.

One long look at him and the decision was made; emergency vet. The more I watched him the more worried I became. He didn’t get up while I got dressed. He didn’t get up when I picked up my keys and walked out the door to put blankets in the car for the ride. He didn’t even get up when I jingled the leashes. Completely out of character. I did finally to get him to the car and we were off to the emergency vet. Somehow managing to get there without getting a speeding ticket. Yay me!

After a full exam, they suggested a whole new round of blood work and x-rays be done. I was all for it. Figure out what is wrong with my dog. An interminable 2 hours of waiting and finally the diagnosis was in – Valley Fever.

We were released with new meds and instructions for care. My sister, who was my support at the vet’s office, came to my house and cooked The Boy chicken and rice soup and brussel sprouts. She said he needed his nutrients to start getting better. She has a thing for him. Shhhhhh, don't tell her puppies.


Waiting for organic chicken and rice to be done.

Now two weeks later he has put some of the weight back on. He is barking at me again. I didn’t realize he had stopped, until he barked at me when I got the leashes out this week. It used to be something I tried to get him to stop; now I encourage it. He’s been dancing in circles when he is excited and standing in the kitchen when I am warming up his chicken and rice soup. We have been going on very short walks. We can’t do much because he gets worn out easily. We had a follow up appointment yesterday. We are staying on the same course of treatment with another follow up in a few more weeks.

For those of you not familiar with Valley Fever, it is disease caused by a fungal spore found in the dirt in the American Southwest, and is really prevalent in Southern Arizona. It’s estimated that about 1 in 3 dogs in Southern Arizona will be infected with VF. The fungus grows in the dirt, then when it matures, dried strands remain until the dirt is disturbed; often by construction, winds, walking, or for dogs, the classic is digging. Once disturbed the strands break and release spores which then become airborne and are inhaled by dog (and also humans). Those little buggers then take up residence in the host and grow up into mature spherules that then burst and release hundreds of baby spores which then can each grow up to do the same thing. They love to attach themselves to the lungs, though the disease can settle into other parts of the body, in particular, the bones, as well. The host can become quite ill, and symptoms usually start with weight loss, fever, coughing, lack of appetite and lack of energy. It can progress to swelling in the limbs (causing lameness), seizures, ulcerations, and heart failure. About 70% of dogs that are infected never get sick and those that get sick can present with different levels of severity.

It is not contagious, but it is nasty. My friend, Joe, lost one of his greyhounds to VF last week. It presents very similar to cancer and that is what they thought she had until the bloodwork came back. She was older (12) and couldn’t fight off the infection. We are lucky to have caught it early. Now it is a waiting game to see how he responds to the medications and treatment.


The Boy on his way to recovery and being spoiled rotten.

11 comments:

Random Felines said...

holy smokes....how very scary. we are sending healing purrs and hope he continues to recover!

Molly The Wally said...

We send healing paw and best wishes for a speedy recovery to Angel. We have never heard to VF. Looks like lots of chicken and rice and hugs and love on the menu. Have a terrific Tuesday and take it easy.
Best wishes Molly

verobirdie said...

Very scary! And why do those things always happen during holidays?
Glad the boy is doing better.

Sue said...

So glad he is recovering.

I have a friend in Australia whose dog is very ill with similar symptoms, but I don't think they get Valley Fever there. I have sent her the link to this page which Lynn kindly emailed me.

Those Brindle Kids said...

Sending that sweet boy good wishes from Truly, Maggie and Walker!

houndstooth said...

I'm so glad you found out what was wrong in time! How scary!

jet said...

Poor boy. Do they know why the titre came back negative the first time? Was he not infected enough ? :P

Suzanne said...

Thanks for the comments everyone.

Jet, to answer your question; yes, they think the first test came back negative because it was just to early for anything to show up. Though, they say that some dogs never have a positive test. He was tested again yesterday, and we will find out the new results Friday. Then he'll continue to be tested at regular intervals until the tests come back negative and he is clean of VF.

TexCyn said...

I am hoping for a full recovery for your boy. I know I'd be beside myself. It's scary reading this. I have a friend that also lost an older dog of hers to VF, but she lived in Az. I'd like to spend some time there, but it does scare me for my guys. Please give him a big fat hug for me! He's adorable!

Hiking Hounds said...

How scary! I'm so glad you were able to find out it was Valley Fever and get him treatment. I've heard that the tests can show negative when they really aren't. It's so scary when they get that sick. When Zephyr was sick he lost 10 pounds in about a week. Not fun to see on our already lean pups. Funny how things that we used to discourage are encouraged and even loved when they start to get better. :-)

Jay said...

We don't have Valley Fever in England, but I've heard of it through Greytalk, and how it can mimic osteosarcoma, or cancer in the lungs. It sounds horrible.

I'm so glad your boy finally got diagnosed at the EV!