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Monday, August 17, 2015

Does My Dog Have Aspergillosis?

BY:  Laurie Brzostowski, President, Snaggle Foot Dog Walks and Pet Care-Round Lake, IL

I have been reading a lot of articles about aspergillosis in dogs lately so I thought I would do some research on it and share the information.

This disease has two types and can cause extreme pain and discomfort to your dogs.  Getting them to a vet as soon as symptoms arise is very important.

What is Aspergillosis?
Aspergillosis is a fungal infection caused by the Aspergillus, a species of common mold found throughout the environment, including dust, straw, grass clippings, and hay. An "opportunistic infection" occurs when an organism, which does not generally cause disease infects a dog. However, in the case of aspergillosis, it does because the pet's immune system and/or body is weakened from some other disease.

There are two types of Aspergillus infection, nasal and disseminated. Both types can occur in cats and dogs, but they occur more frequently in dogs. Young adult dogs with a long head and nose and dogs with a medium length head and nose are also more susceptible to the nasal form of aspergillosis. The disseminated version of the disease seems to be more common in German Shepherads.

What are the Symptoms?
There are two types of infection. The first is the nasal form, where the infection is localized in the nose, nasal passages, and front sinuses. It is believed that this develops from direct contact with the fungus through the nose and sinuses. The second type is disseminated, meaning it is more widespread, and is not only located in the nasal area. It’s not certain how this form enters the body.

Symptoms of nasal aspergillosis include sneezing, nasal pain, bleeding from the nose, reduced appetite, visibly swollen nose, and long-term nasal discharge from the nostril(s), which may contain mucus, pus and/or blood. In some cases, loss of pigment or tissue on the surface of the skin may also occur.

Symptoms of disseminated aspergillosis in dogs may develop suddenly or slowly over a period of several months, and include spinal pain or lameness due to infection, and cause inflammation of the animal’s bone marrow and bones. Other signs which aren’t specific to the disease include fever, weight loss, vomiting and anorexia.

What Causes It?
Aspergillosis is an infection caused by fungus, which is commonly found in the environment in substances such as dust, hay, and grass. The nasal form of the disease is usually seen in outdoor and farm dogs because there more frequently exposed to the substances in which the fungus is found.

As an opportunistic infection, an animal is only likely to contract Aspergillosis if the immune system is already in a weakened state. Dogs exhibiting immunodeficiency -- an inability to produce a normal immune response -- are at higher risk.

How Does My Vet Diagnose This?
Diagnostic procedures vary depending on whether the case is nasal or disseminated. For suspected nasal aspergillosis, analysis of nasal swabs, fungal cultures of nasal discharge, and a rhinoscopy -- inserting a small fiber-optic scope into the nose in order to examine the inside of the nose and its mucus linings -- can be expected. The symptoms for disseminated aspergillosis are mostly nonspecific and therefore more difficult to diagnose. Tests may include a urine analysis and X-rays to examine the spine.

How Do I Treat It?
Treatment varies depending on whether the disease is nasal or disseminated. The primary choice of treatment for dogs with nasal aspergillosis is the administration of an antifungal drug directly into the patient’s nose and nasal passages, while the patient is under anesthesia. Disseminated cases in dogs are difficult to treat and rarely cured. Antifungal drugs are generally given to treat symptoms, and may cure the condition.

During the summer months when dogs are outside more often, this can become a common occurrence.  To prevent Aspergillosis, remove grass clippings so they don't sit around for too long and don't allow dogs to romp around in hay or straw.

Summer is fun for everyone but let's keep "everyone" safe !


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