Valley Fever in Other Animals

Valley Fever can affect many other animals besides dogs and cats.

Most mammals can be shown to be infected with the fungus, even if they do not get sick from it very often.

Valley Fever can be what is considered an "incidental finding" after death:

the organisms are present but are not causing any illness in the animal. This is very typical of cows and other ruminant livestock. Occasionally, an animal may become sick and die from the illness but it is very rare.

Species in which Valley Fever has been found:

  • cattle and other livestock
  • horses
  • llamas and alpacas
  • apes and monkeys
  • many kinds of zoo animals such as kangaroos, wallabies, tigers, bears, badgers, otters, etc.
  • marine mammals - sea otters, dolphins, and California sea lions on the west coast
  • occasional wildlife that lives in the endemic area - skunk, cougar, javelina

Horses

Infections are uncommon in horses but if they manifest the disease, it is usually severe or disseminated at the time of discovery. Of the 20 or so cases reported in the literature prior to 1990, all were euthanized. Since the advent of itraconazole and fluconazole, successful treatment of horses has been reported. This is likely dependent on awareness, early diagnosis, and the decrease in cost of medication, particularly fluconazole. Horses in the literature treated with ketoconazole all died despite the medication.

Llamas & Alpacas

Llamas and alpacas appear to be exquisitely sensitive to Valley Fever. They develop severe and fulminant disease. Death is a common outcome. No information on treatment of llamas and alpacas is published in the major veterinary literature at this time. However, this author is aware that some southern Arizona veterinarians have had success treating these species with ketoconazole, fluconazole and itraconazole.

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Apes & Monkeys

Apes, monkeys, and all other smaller primates are very susceptible to Valley Fever. Many of the animals in the Phoenix, Tucson, and San Diego zoos, as well as primates in centers and refuges that exist in the endemic area, are being treated long term for Valley Fever, and the zoos lost many of these creatures before treatments for Valley Fever were developed. Treatments are the same as for dogs and people.

Other Zoo Animals

Other zoo animals, most of which are exotic to this part of the country, are variably susceptible to the disease. The zoos are very aware of this disease and often get early testing of animals that are not feeling well. The animals can then be medicated.

Marine mammals

Unusual cases crop up periodically in marine mammals such as sea otters and dolphins, suggesting the spores can be blown out over the water where these animals inhale them and become sick. An occasional case is also found in wild native animals. Likely, these animals have become debilitated in some way, making them susceptible to the disease. The infection is discovered after the animal has died or been euthanized for poor condition.