Dogs are quite prone to picking up infections of the nasal passages and nose, because they spend so much time sniffing about and so, inhaling various invisible particles from the environment around them. One of the most common infections of the nose and nasal passages is a type of fungal infection called aspergillosis, which is caused by a strain of fungus called aspergillus.
Aspergillus fungus produces spores in order to reproduce, and it is these spores themselves that can be inhaled into the nose when your dog sniffs around, which may then in turn lead to the fungal nasal infection that we call aspergillosis. You may have heard of aspergillosis before, because it is a condition that can affect people as well as dogs-but even if the term is new to you, if your dog has ever had a nasal infection, there is a reasonable possibility that aspergillus was the cause.
While all dogs are apt to contract the odd case of the sniffles or a mild nasal infection that clears up on its own, treatment may be required for dogs who display acute symptoms or that are immune compromised, in order to ensure that the dog recovers quickly and that the condition does not worsen or spread. In this article, we will look at aspergillosis infections in dogs in more detail, including how aspergillosis can be caught, the symptoms it displays, and how it can be treated. Read on to learn more.
Aspergillus is a fungus or mould, which can be found in most countries of the world including the UK. The levels of aspergillus in the environment tend to peak in the autumn and winter months of the year, as they thrive and reproduce in damp or moist environments and are tolerant of low temperatures. Aspergillus can exist within the domestic home as well as outside, and can live on both human and animal bedding, among other places.
Generally, even dogs that come into contact with aspergillus regularly or that have it present in their home will not be affected by the fungus, as dogs generally develop a natural immunity to it by means of low-level exposure over time. However, it can lead to infections in some dogs, most commonly (but not exclusively) dogs with compromised immune systems, or those that are suffering from or recovering from another illness and so, whose immune system is already working hard.
While there are a range of different problems that aspergillus can cause in dogs, nasal infections are the most common, which is because the spores of the fungus can be inhaled with ease when your dog is sniffing around. Additionally, the inside of the dog’s nose is moist and has a consistent temperature, providing the perfect environment for the fungus to reproduce and thrive.
As mentioned, aspergillosis usually occurs in the dog’s nasal passages, which then leads to the classic symptoms of an upper respiratory tract and nasal infection, including a runny, snotty discharge from the nose, sniffles, sneezing and congestion-all of the usual symptoms you might expect.
However, because aspergillus is fungal, proper diagnosis is required in order to ensure that the appropriate form of treatment is undertaken, because different types of infections will only respond to the relevant treatment-this is why antibiotics are ineffective at treating most coughs and colds, which tend to be viral in nature.
If the infection is mild and simply clears up within a few days and does not cause your dog more acute problems such as respiratory difficulties or a loss of interest in food, treatment may not be required. However, because aspergillosis tends to affect dogs whose immune systems are compromised or weak, when it does appear in such dogs, it is likelier to be harder to shake off naturally.
Symptoms including a runny nose, snot, sneezing and whistling or otherwise congested-sounding breathing from the nose should all be reported to your vet, who will then review your dog’s history along with a physical examination in order to begin a differential diagnosis.
In order to confirm or rule out the condition, the vet will need to run a bronchoscopy, and potentially, take a swab from the mucous membranes inside of your dog’s nostrils in order to examine them for the signature spores of aspergillus.
If your vet does diagnose aspergillosis and decides that treatment is necessary, there are two different approaches that they may wish to take.
The first of these involves the topical application of the relevant antifungal medication directly into your dog’s nostrils, usually by means of a nasal spray or other appropriate delivery medium. This type of treatment kills the fungal spores directly, and is generally highly effective with just one or two applications.
However, much like the kennel cough vaccine which is also usually given as a nasal spray, delivering the active agent into the dog’s nostrils can be a challenge! Dogs generally don’t like things being inserted into their noses any more than we do, and will often struggle or make it hard or even impossible to treat. Additionally, very small dogs like the Chihuahua and the Yorkshire terrier have very small, narrow nostrils, which can again pose a challenge.
The alternative to topical treatment is administering antifungal tablets to your dog by mouth, which have a systemic effect on the entire body when it comes to eradicating fungus and fungal spores. However, this approach to treatment tends to be less effective, and may require repeated doses in order to eradicate the condition entirely.