SlimDoggy Health Check: Fungal Diseases
Next in our SlimDoggy Health Check series on dog diseases are fungal diseases. A fungus is any member of a large group of eukaryotic organisms that includes microorganisms such as yeasts and molds, as well as the more familiar mushrooms. Wikipedia
Many types of fungus exist in the environment and are typically spread to our pets through the respiratory system or the skin. Only a few cause illness but they may attack the skin or mucus membranes or other organs such as the liver, lungs or brain.
- Aspergillosis: This infection is caused by the Aspergillus species and typically affects the nose and sinuses. A dog with a strong immune system is unlikely to be affected by this fungus and dogs with weakened systems or puppies more susceptible. It is suspected to enter the body through the nasal passages and is more common in dogs that spend a lot of time outdoors in farmland or around soil, dust, hay and grass. Symptoms may include sneezing, bloody noses, discharge from the nose and decreased appetite. It is more common in dogs with long nasal passage such as Collies or German Shepherds. A different strain of Aspergillus (disseminated) may affect the dog’s body and more severe symptoms would manifest including back pain, partial paralysis, lameness with pronounced swelling. Diagnosis is usually accomplished with nasal swabs, cultures of nasal discharge or possibly a rhinoscopy. Diagnosis of disseminated aspergillus is more difficult and urinalysis and xrays more likely. Treatment for nasal aspergillus is insertion of an anti-fungal drug directly into the nose and nasal passages while the dog is under anesthesia. Treatment of disseminated aspergillus is more difficult and rarely successful. Since this fungus is found everywhere, the best prevention. is maintaining a healthy immune system in your dog and avoiding environments where the fungus thrives.
- Blastomycosis: Typically found in wet, rotting wood or debris, this fungus is found most often on the eastern seaboard, Great Lakes region and Mississippi, Missouri and Ohio Valleys. It also occurs more often in males than females. It is acquired by inhaling spores. Blastomycosis attacks the respiratory system and symptoms include fever, loss of appetite, eye irritation and discharge, coughing and possibly pneumonia. It is also common for the dog to develop lesions in the skin. This fungal disease is frequently misdiagnosed and left untreated can be severely dangerous. If you dog has been in an area where the fungus may be found, be sure and mention that to your vet. Examination of fluid extracted from the lesions or the bronchi may be used for diagnostics along with blood tests, urinalysis and xrays. Treatment may be administration of oral drug Itraconazole for 60-90 days. If the dog doesn’t respond, there are other, more toxic medications and surgery may even be indicated if parts of the lung are damaged. There is no vaccine for Blastomycosis so keeping your animal away from potential hazardous areas and seek prompt veterinary care to prevent infection.
- Coccidiomycosis (Valley Fever): Coccidioidomycosis is a noncontagious infection caused by the fungus Coccidioides immitis and typically found in dry dusty regions of the south west and central California. Like many fungi, it enters through the respiratory system and dog’s with compromised or weakened immune systems are most susceptible. Dogs in these areas who spend a lot of time outside, walking trails in the desert have a much higher incidence of this disease. Symptoms include: loss of appetite, cough, difficulty breathing, lameness, bone swelling or enlargement, skin ulcers and eye inflammation. Diagnosis may be made with xrays that will display bone or lymph node inflammation or blood tests. Many dogs can fight off the disease without treatment, but if symptoms persist or get worse, see your vet for treatment with anti-fungal medication. Disseminated Valley Fever may require more aggressive treatments including surgery to remove diseased tissue. There is no vaccine or other preventative measure other then vigilance of your dog and their exposure.
- Histoplasmosis: Caused by the Histoplasma capsulatum fungus which dogs can contract by inhaling or eating contaminated soil. Found in cool damp areas and created from bird or bat droppings. It usually impacts the respiratory or gastrointestinal systems, but the disseminated form may strike other organs. Symptoms are varied and include coughing, loss of appetite, fever, lack of energy, swelling of lymph nodes and lameness. A disseminated form of the diseases impacts other organs but usually only occurs in dogs with weakened immune systems. Diagnosis is made through a blood panel and urinalysis and treatment varies depending on the severity. If restricted to the respiratory system it is likely to resolve on its own, but if other organs are involved, antifungal drugs and other supportive treatments may be required. To prevent your dog from contracting this infection, your best bet is to avoid areas where the fungus is present.
There are many more fungal diseases that your dog may contract or be exposed to. Please read through our additional readings for more information.
Fungal Diseases in Dogs
The Top 5 Fungal Diseases in Dogs
Fungal Infections in Dogs
Fungal Infection (Aspergillosis) in Dogs
Fungal Infection (Blastomycosis) in Dogs
Fungal Infection (Coccidioidomycosis) in Dogs
Histoplasmosis in Dogs