About nine years ago, my life took an amazing turn for the better. I started exercising daily, spending more time cuddling and waking up every morning with a smile on my face. All because I started waking up next to a cuddly, smiling best friend. It began after a trip to the Pima County Animal Shelter.
Nine years later, Merton and I have been everywhere together. He was there when I finished college and moved back to Phoenix. Then he took that long drive with me, staying by my side when I moved to Oregon for my first job. We explored every hiking trail, lake and river in the area, until it was time to move again for a new job. He ran happily along the banks of the Spokane River in Washington, then sat patiently in the back seat of my car, as we drove another long drive back to Arizona.
These days he loves to run along hiking trails in Greer, explore camping spots along the Rim and wrestle with his girlfriend in our neighborhood dogpark. But this past year, we had a big scare that almost brought an end to his carefree jaunts. Suddenly, walks through the neighborhood left him tired and he seemed extremely lazy. This went on for months and we concluded old age must be catching up with him. Until he started coughing. After a blood test, the vet quickly diagnosed him with Valley Fever.
I'd seen stories on the news about people in Arizona catching Valley Fever, but hadn't heard much about the disease in animals. But I've found out it's pretty common in dogs, and can even be deadly if not caught in time.
Valley Fever is a fungal infection you get from breathing in spores that are found in the Valley's soil. Dogs are actually more susceptible because of their close proximity to the ground. Plus, if your dog digs, stirring up that dust makes him/her more at risk. It's not contagious to other dogs or people, but getting rid of the fungus can be tricky. Young puppies, older dogs and dogs with weak immune systems can die from Valley Fever, but most dogs will recover. They are given anti-fungal medication, usually for 6-12 months. A recent blood test showed Merton still has the fungus after almost a year of treatment, so he will have to continue with the pills. They're not cheap....we're paying over a hundred dollars a month, plus the cost of occasional blood tests.
The happiness my dog brings me is priceless, so of course I will pay for pills as long as he needs them. Even though the blood test shows he still has the fungus, the cough is gone and his energy is back...so he's definitely on the road to recovery.
I hope someone else who may not know about Valley Fever in dogs will read this though, and recognize the symptoms in their dog, before it's too late.
Here's a very helpful website I found: http://www.dlrrphoenix.org/vf.html