Never a dull moment, all right. Cassie has been sick for the past 10 days with an alarming cough and general lassitude. The vet put her on a couple of dog drugs which off the bat seemed to help significantly. But just as I thought she was healing up, the cough came back.
So this morning it was off to the vet, a 40-minute drive through late rush-hour traffic. After considering the details and X-raying her lungs, he found a lot of congestion up near the top of the lungs and near the heart. Between that and the elevated temperature, he suspects Valley fever.
So he did some lab tests — results won’t be back until Monday — and handed me a bottle of fluconazole and said to take her off the stuff she’s been taking and give her two of these a day. Call back on Monday to see whether his suspicion is correct.
I remarked that about 15 or 20 years ago, a friend had a dog with Valley fever, which they dosed mightily with an antifungal. The stuff was astonishingly expensive in the U.S., where patients are regularly ripped off — he was a lawyer and couldn’t afford the treatment…had to drive into Mexico and bring the stuff back across the border. He said the newer drugs work much better, and that if she does have Valley fever, chances are very high that the fluconazole will work on it.
ohhh-kayyy. The course of treatment is 6 to 12 months, though some dogs have to be medicated for the rest of their lives.
It’s credible, as off-the-cuff diagnoses go. Every time the two dogs go out through the side door to the garage — which is every time I come home, and then some — Ruby shoots out like a rocket and Cassie chases after her, hot on her heels. So a couple times a day she gets the quarter-minus ground cover sprayed right up into her face. And dusty desert sand is exactly the stuff that harbors the pathogen (coccidiodes).
Valley fever is endemic in the low desert. If you’ve lived here any length of time, you’ve had it. Used to be when they tested you for TB — as they would if you wanted a job as, say, a teacher or a nurse, or just on general principles — you would test positive, simply because the Valley fever antibodies would trigger the TB test. Don’t know if that’s still true — I avoid jobs that require invasive and nosy medical tests or investigations, and so haven’t had another TB test in years. But the point is, everybody who lives here gets it. And so do a lot of dogs: 6 to 10 percent of dogs in Arizona’s Maricopa, Pinal, and Pima counties get it. Like humans, most infected dogs throw it off quickly and probably develop lifelong immunity. But anything that compromises your immune system…such as, say, old age…can cause you to develop disease symptoms. And Cassie is 12 years old: about 69 in human years. As far as we know…she could be older than that.
Fortunately, her symptoms suggest the disease is still confined to the lungs and has not yet begun to disseminate through her body. If that’s the case, the drug should get it under control and she may live a normal lifespan.
A “normal” lifespan for a corgi is 16 to 18 years… We shall see.