Valley fever can be devastating for dogs

While he may seem like a typical dog, this Great Dane named Relay has overcome a lot in his nine years. And recently, so has his owner, Jenny Allert of Mesa.

“He’s a rescue Great Dane. We got him when he was 18 months old,” Allert said. “He was actually in an abused family and removed from the family he was with.”

Relay’s latest challenge began when Allert noticed an abscess on one of the dog’s legs last February, resulting in a trip to a veterinary emergency room. It was a symptom of valley fever, and it meant the fungal disease had spread to other parts of the dog’s body.

Anti-fungal medication and steroids helped build Relay’s strength, but the journey has been long and expensive, Allert said.

“I think initially the vet visits, the initial medication – we were right around $2,000,” she said. “Now monthly maintenance, it’s about $75 a month.”

Valley Fever Graphic

Valley Fever Graphic by Stephan Blake Harvey / Cronkite News

Valley fever is generally known as a disease affecting people. But it strikes dogs as well, and for them it can be debilitating or deadly.

Common activities like taking a hike can expose a dog to valley fever, which is spread by spores found in soil.

Arizona Humane Society veterinarian Melissa Thompson says valley fever is a common reason for people to not adopt a dog there.

“We don’t generally put dogs … with valley fever up for adoption because the costs that are included for people,” she said. “It can be a lifelong commitment for the pet.”

Some dogs with severe cases of valley fever are euthanized, Thompson said.

Allert said even though Relay’s valley fever has been a financial burden, she’s glad he’s finally back to his old self.

“Our children would be devastated without him. We are so happy he is 9 years old and we still have him,” she said. “When you have an animal, you take on that financial responsibility.”