Most people living in Arizona and around the southwestern United States are familiar with the fungal infection known as valley fever. It most commonly affects dogs, but all mammals are susceptible to the infection, including camelids like llamas and alpacas.
What Is Valley Fever?
Also called coccidioidomycosis, valley fever is a fungal infection caused by the coccidioides fungus which is found in soil regionally in the southwestern United States (especially south-central Arizona) and in parts of Central America and South America.
The term “valley fever” refers to both the fungal infection and the range of symptoms that it causes.
How Do Llamas and Alpacas Get Valley Fever?
Llamas and alpacas can contract valley fever the same way other mammals can, by breathing in infectious spores that are found in the soil. These spores can be kicked up from the dirt or can be breathed in while they are blowing around in dust in the wind.
Once the lungs have been exposed to the infectious fungal spores, the lifecycle of the coccidioides fungus continues. The spores take root in the lungs where they grow, mature, and reproduce. If left untreated, they can spread throughout a host’s body, causing painful symptoms and health problems throughout the body.
Signs and Symptoms of Valley Fever in Camelids
Initial signs of valley fever include:
Weight loss and reduced appetite
If allowed to progress, disseminated valley fever will develop, causing the following symptoms:
Abscess-like swelling beneath the skin
Swollen lymph nodes
Ulcers that do not heal on their own
Valley Fever Diagnosis and Treatment for Camelids
If your llamas or alpacas display signs and symptoms of valley fever, we strongly encourage you to schedule a veterinary examination. Prompt of valley fever is essential to preventing more serious complications from developing in the future.
Before administering any form of curative treatment, we first perform a physical examination and diagnostic testing to verify the presence of a coccidioides fungal infection. This includes listening to the animal’s lungs, taking x-rays, and typically running blood tests, as well.
Once a definitive valley fever diagnosis is reached, we can administer treatment primarily in the form of antifungal medications. We might also recommend additional treatments to ease symptoms and aid recovery.
Comprehensive Livestock Veterinary Care in Tucson
In addition to caring for small animals and equines, Adobe Veterinary Center in Tucson is a full-service veterinary clinic, providing complete care for livestock of all kinds including camelids, ruminants, and pigs. To learn more about our services or to find out how to protect your llamas and alpacas from the health risks of valley fever, we welcome you to contact us and schedule an appointment today.
Our practice is unique in that we provide medical care to multiple species in the greater Tucson area. Three of our veterinarians specialize in the care of dogs and cats and the other three veterinarians specialize in the care of horses and livestock.