"What is Histoplasmosis Fungal Infection in Dogs ?

"What is Histoplasmosis Fungal Infection in Dogs ?

Health & Safety

When it comes to fungal diseases, they can be divided into two distinct categories. The first being a fungus that affects skin or mucous membranes and the second is a fungus that may attack the body's organs, namely the liver, brain, lungs as well as other organs, and which are considered as being systemic. When a dog contracts a fungal disease, it's really important to maintain good hygiene when caring for your pet although the risk of the infection being passed to humans from a dog is considered very low with the exception of conditions like ringworm.

Histoplasmosis is a fungal infection that can be quite difficult to treat so it's worth knowing the symptoms so you get to recognise them should they rear their ugly heads. The earlier a dog is treated for the condition the better, so it's vital to get it diagnosed by a vet as soon as you can so your dog can start an effective treatment and be on their way to recovery.

What Causes Histoplasmosis in Dogs?

Histoplasmosis is a fungal infection that's caused by a fungus called Histoplasma capsulatum and dogs catch it by eating or inhaling soil that's been contaminated by it. The fungus can also be ingested when dogs eat bird droppings, especially pigeon droppings although poultry and bat droppings can be responsible for a dog contracting the condition should they eat their droppings too. The fungus gets into a dog's intestinal tract and this is where the disease takes hold and develops causing all sorts of health problems.

Other causes for the condition include the following:

  • Diarrhoea and anaemia which could be due to a severe hook worm infestation
  • Enlarged liver, lymph nodes or spleen which is consistent with a condition known as lymphoma
  • Respiratory health issues which could be distemper, heart disease or bacterial pneumonia

Symptoms to Watch Out For

One of the more common signs that a dog may be afflicted with Histoplasmosis is their lack of appetite. This naturally leads to weight loss, a dog usually becomes depressed and they suffer diarrhoea which still causes them to strain. However, there are other symptoms which may include the following:

  • Coughing
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Not wanting to go for walks or exercise sometimes because they just cannot
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Lameness
  • Changes in a dog's eye and skin
  • High fever, up to 40 degrees C (104.0 degrees F)
  • Pale gums and moist mucous membranes
  • Yellowish discolouration in the gums
  • Enlarged liver and spleen

What is the Diagnosis?

A vet would carry out a complete examination of your dog and this includes a chemical blood profile, a urinalysis and a complete blood count. However, the blood tests will only show a presence of the fungus and that your dog has been exposed to it, but this does not mean they are suffering from the disease because of the exposure. A vet would have to carry out further in-depth tests to rule out the condition altogether because there are other conditions which have very similar symptoms to that of Histoplasmosis. This is why it's so important for vets to discover exactly what your dog is suffering from before they can prescribe an effective treatment.

Treatment For Histoplasmosis

Vets usually like to treat dogs with histoplasmosis on an outpatient basis with an effective medication. However, if your dog cannot absorb nutrients correctly, a vet may recommend treating them as inpatients because of the intestinal disorder. Your dog will be administered all the nutrients, medication and fluids they need via a drip until their condition improves.

Living With a Dog With Histoplasmosis

When a dog is diagnosed with the condition, they will be given an effective treatment prescribed by your vet and would have to remain on the treatment until their condition improves which could mean regular visits to the vet. However, your dog's activity must be limited until they have fully recovered from the disease. Often, a vet might suggest cage rest or that you restrict any exercise they have to a very limited area so they don't move around too much. Stress has to be avoided at all costs as this may well slow down the recovery period. Should the condition recur, your dog would have to undergo the treatment a second time around.

Preventing Histoplasmosis

The only real way of preventing your dog from contracting Histoplasmosis is to make sure they don't go near any areas that are suspected of being contaminated by the Histoplasma fungus. This means areas where lots of birds congregate or where poultry are kept as well as areas where bats roost. It is also a good idea to avoid areas where the soil has been disturbed but where birds regularly roost and therefore the land would be full of bird droppings.

However, this can be a little hard to do if you regularly take your dog for long walks off the lead in woodland or lakeside areas where large numbers of birds can be found. If you notice any of the above symptoms and your dog has definitely lost their usual appetite, you should contact your vet and take your pet along for a full examination so the condition can either be diagnosed or eliminated as being the cause of their symptoms.

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