"Blastomycosis-a fungal infection that can affect dogs
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"Blastomycosis-a fungal infection that can affect dogs

Dogs
Health & Safety

Blastomycosis is a type of fungal infection that can affect dogs and also people, and that can potentially be serious and even fatal for both species if left untreated. It is caused by a type of fungus called blastomyces dermatitidis, which can be found in damp, moist areas such as the land around estuaries, marshes, ponds and lakes, and other waterways. While the condition is not as common in the UK as it is in some other countries, it is still a potential hazard, with a number of cases seen in UK clinics every year.

Dogs that are kept for working roles that often involve contact with standing water and wet areas, including gun dogs like the springer spaniel, are at the highest risk of the condition due to their lifestyles, as do dogs that commonly go walking in similar areas.

In this article we will look at blastomycosis in dogs in more detail, including the symptoms of the condition, how it affects dogs, and what can be done about it. Read on to learn more.

How do dogs catch blastomycosis?

In order for a dog to develop the illness called blastomycosis, they must be exposed to the spores of blastomyces dermatitidis, which means spending time in the types of areas in which it can thrive. Any areas where water meets land and creates a damp environment on the ground and in the air is a potential breeding ground for the fungus, such as the mud flats of rivers and estuaries, ponds, marshland and other similar settings.

Areas where you can see lots of fungal growth of various types and mould formation are particularly apt to provide the appropriate environment for blastomyces dermatitidis. In order to potentially develop the condition itself, your dog must inhale the fungal spores, which is of course very easy to do because dogs explore the world with their noses.

Once they have inhaled the spores, they migrate into the dog’s lungs and begin to reproduce due to the hospitable environment within the lungs, which provides everything the fungus needs to replicate. The condition then tends to spread outwards from the lungs, and begins to affect a wide range of other bodily systems including the bone marrow, brain, eyes and lymph nodes.

It is important to note that even in areas where blastomyces dermatitidis is prevalent in large numbers in the environment and where dogs come into contact with it regularly, few to no dogs have high risk factors of getting sick. However, for dogs that do develop the condition after exposure, it is generally fairly serious.

What are the symptoms of blastomycosis in dogs?

If you live near to water sources such as those outlined above that your dog commonly walks in or are exposed to, and particularly if you have a dog in a working role that is out in all weathers and all types of environments, it is important to be vigilant to the possibility of blastomyces dermatitidis being present in the environment and potentially, infecting your dog.

While the condition is much less common within the UK than it is in some other countries, dogs that walk daily in the types of areas that can host the fungus are exposed to an ongoing potential risk, and while the likelihood of illness is low, it is still present.

Being aware of the early symptoms of the condition in your dog can help you to spot the onset of the condition quickly and get your dog help promptly, which is vital in order to increase your dog’s chances of recovery.

The symptoms of blastomycosis in dogs can of course be variable, and tend to develop over time rather than acutely over the course of a day or so. Ergo, looking at the complete picture of your dog’s symptoms is important in order to identify a potential problem early on.

Some of the main symptoms of blastomycosis in dogs are as follows:

  • Unspecified lameness, which may affect any leg or more than one at once and for which an obvious root cause cannot be identified.
  • Loss of appetite and interest in food.
  • Loss of weight and condition.
  • A high fever, although this may not be hugely above the norm to begin with.
  • A painful-sounding harsh cough.
  • Sores or lesions on the skin.
  • Lesions of the eyes.

If you spot some of the above symptoms in your dog-particularly the cough, fever and lesions-you should take your dog to the vet asap. The same is true if you spot milder or more general symptoms but know that your dog’s local environment may increase their risk factors.

Can blastomycosis in dogs be treated?

Dogs with blastomycosis will rarely recover on their own without treatment-however, with prompt diagnosis and treatment, most otherwise healthy dogs will recover.

There are various different approaches to treatment that your vet may decide to use once your dog has been diagnosed, but the most common and usually, effective approach is treatment with antifungal medications, usually administered on an inpatient basis using an IV fluid drip.

Supporting care and treatment of any secondary issues may be taken care of at the same time as treating the root cause of the condition, and in order to mitigate the risks of the treatment itself.

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