Written by: Monique Benoist


Valley Fever, or Coccidioidomycosis, is a serious fungal disease cause by dimorphic soil fungus, Coccidioides immitis, and is somewhat similar clinically to tuberculosis. The suffering is not limited to humans.

Like people, dogs are very susceptible to Valley Fever. Dogs primarily contract Valley Fever in the low desert regions of Arizona, New Mexico, Southwestern Texas, Nevada and parts of California, such as the Central Valley, Bakersfield, and San Diego County.

Dogs contract Valley Fever by inhaling spores distributed by wind and construction, digging in the dirt, or uprooting plants. Soil that is being trenched, graded, or bulldozed increases the risk of spores in the air.

Noticing the symptoms is the key to saving your dogs life. It can start out in different forms. One being that it involves the respiratory tract/pulmonary system (lungs and airways) or cutaneous (pertaining to the skin).

The Pulmonary form may be a mild infection with symptoms typical of a common cold. Coughing, lack of appetite, etc. If the primary form goes unnoticed and untreated the infection can continue to develop and disseminate to other areas, such as bones, joints, nervous system, kidney and liver.

The cutaneous form is very uncommon. A skin lesion most commonly a firm hard mass with a central ulcerated area forms.

Hopefully, this article will alert other dog owners to the seriousness of this deadly disease. I never thought it would happen to us.

Now that you know a little about this dreaded disease, let me continue with my Autry’s story.

In February 2000, my very healthy 130# Bullmastiff, Autry, started coughing. I thought he had picked up kennel cough and as an adult dog, kennel cough can run its course without causing the dog much distress or without the use of antibiotics, but it must be watched closely.

After coughing for four days, I took him to the veterinarian. They took an x-ray of his lungs and a Valley Fever Blood test was taken.

The X-rays showed haziness in the lungs, clues that Valley Fever may be the cause of the cough. However, the blood test came back Negative. I was sent home with antibiotics and the vet classified the coughing as "Kennel Cough" or "Bronchitis".

Within two days the cough vanished and shortly after this, is when I became worried. Autry became very listless and withdrawn, with no appetite. It had now been approximately 3 weeks since the first time he had coughed.

I took him back to the veterinarian and demanded he find out what was wrong with my baby. A second x-ray confirmed Pneumonia and a second blood test was done. This time the Valley Fever blood test came back Positive. The virus has different titer levels 0-4, 4-200, 200+. Autry was at a 16. The veterinarian told me that this is a serious and potentially fatal disease but with the treatment of our choice, based on what we could afford, the chances of survival were good. The disease can go in several directions and may take 6 months to a year of treatment to be cleared. Nizoral (Ketoconazole), is the least expensive. However its side effects may include several symptoms that are sometimes difficult to distinguish from the disease itself. Vomiting, nausea, and lightening of the coat of the dog.

Sporanox (Itraconazole) or Diflucan (Fluconazole) is extremely expensive, costing $.85 - $11.00 a pill. Depending on the size of the dog, the cost of the treatment, for many, is just not manageable. Many people have to go to Mexico for a more realistic price of the medication.

We started out with the Nizoral for two weeks. He was refusing to eat, did not want me to touch him and wanted only to sleep. I was feeling him slipping away. Then the scary part started. "The Fevers". His first fever was 104.5 degrees. I was in a state of panic fearing his weakness growing and I wasn’t not sure if he was dehydrated, or if there was a possibility of him going into convulsions due to the high fevers. I rushed him to the ER Vet. He was kept overnight with an IV set up and cold wet blankets and fans to pull down the fever. Nine hours later, I brought him home. At this time I was told by the ER Vet, that I could expect more fevers and to monitor him constantly. 

By this time were 6 weeks into this nightmare. Autry was down to 111#. It’s time for drastic measures. I decide to blend food for him and feed him with a syringe and turkey baster. I boiled him hamburger, liver and brown rice, watered down kibble and put it all into a food processor and added vegetables. This produced a liquid diet that I tube fed him. At this time, I was lucky to have met a dear friend that highly suggested that we switch to the "Sporanox", which was the more expensive medication. She said that this has less side effects, and is more effective based on her own experience with her Bullmastiffs that have had this disease.

Within 3 weeks on the new meds, he was becoming somewhat interested in his favorite biscuits. I tried anything and everything to get him to eat. Baby food was a real hit. He was still only eating a few tablespoons at a time but "Beef with Gravy" was his favorite.

He was still losing weight caused by the disease itself. His weight was down now down to 106# Still very withdrawn, listless, depressed and losing a lot of hair. Fevers were persistent, one night spiking to 105 degrees. I had to learn to manage him with the cold wet blankets and fans, and aspirin. This worked for us, but please consult with your veterinarian before you attempt to treat your animal at home.

At about 3 months into this disease I was fighting right along side of him. As a supportive therapy, he was now getting 2,000mg Ester-C, 800i.u. Vitamin E and 600mg pure garlic pills. All of these are immune system boosters which is very important. I was lucky to have some good friends and family to check on him during the day while I went to work. We were still tube feeding him and sometimes he’d eat boiled rice with baby food with either veal & gravy or beef & gravy.

He was going to the vet once a month now for a titer check and a general exam. The titer had gone up to a 32. Our vet said this can happen and can get a lot worse before it gets better. After 1-1/2 months on the new meds he began showing signs of improvement. He was wanting to eat, was wagging his tail and wanted to be close to me again.

Five months after the initial diagnosis, he had a huge turn around. No more fevers, he began eating on his own and his weight was back up to 112#.

It’s been 6 months. Autry now weighs 127#. He wants to play, knocks me over and is eating like a horse. He is still on meds, and the titer test now shows a level of 4. We are trying for 0! The vet is optimistic that he can still live a normal life.

I never knew what I was in for when he was first diagnosed. 95% of all of my insight and education on this came from the internet and talking with anyone that had experienced this or had information on Valley Fever.

I say prayers every night thanking God for helping Autry & I get through this, and for my friends and family and all of their support.

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* Approximately a year and three months later as Autry still continued to take the medication, and of course I still continued to administer homeopathic care, he seems to now be free of the disease.  It had been three months since the last titer count was done, Autry's vet says we should test him one final time because he feels it is time to take him off of the medication, due to the fact that he is doing so well.  Autry is one of the lucky one's, his titer came back a 0!!!

I was instructed to stop the medication and watch him carefully for a few weeks, checking for any signs of reoccurring symptoms.  i was so scared that he would have a relapse.  My vet told me the chances of a relapse is much higher if the dog is taken off the meds too soon, and a relapse is typically harder to treat.  A few months had passed and he was doing great, becoming stronger as the days go on (keep in mind he lost almost all of his muscle tone throughout his body).  The recovery is very slow.

** Final update: May 15, 2002**  It has now been almost a year and a half since he was taken off the medications and Autry is doing great!  He will be 4 years old in October and he now weighs 150#!  the only thing that he struggles with is his right reat leg.  It is not as strong as the left and he seems to have some trouble getting up from a down position,  however he runs and plays with no problems.  My vet says that sometimes the disease settles in the bones or it could be that as Autry became more active he could have slightly injured a ligament due to the fact that there was not much muscle tone supporting the leg, something I certainlynever thought about, I guess I should have had a Physical Therapist during the recovery stages.

One thing I know for sure, I still continue to worry that it will come back.  In addition, I never let Autry outside during a dust storm, and when we go on walks, I keep his nose out of the dirt. 

Autry is now a certified therapy dog with Gabriel's Angels!  He loves his visits with people and is a great ambassador for this wonderful breed!  God Bless to all of you, and God's sweet animal creations that may be challenged with this devastating disease.



**The Valley Fever Vaccine Project of the Americas has a website at They also have a Quarterly Newsletter that has a lot of helpful information in it.

The "Gold Standard" for human treatment is Amphotericin B.

The vaccine they are developing is for both humans and dogs.

The care that Autry has been receiving since he became sick has been the best. He has had 24 hour a day care, and I truly think that this is why he has made it this far.

If your dog is sick with a cough or fevers, please get him/her to the veterinarian asap. It could save your dog’s life.

Tracy Ferrick,                                                                                                                            Editor,



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