Fungal Infections: What Puts Pets at Risk, How to Spot Them and Treatment Options

What Are the Signs of Systemic Fungal Disease?

The signs can vary, depending on the fungal organisms involved. Animals with fungal disease may have vague signs such as weight loss. Depending on the fungus involved, they may also experience more specific signs such as a coughing or trouble breathing, skin lesions, eye abnormalities, lameness, fever or neurological abnormalities such as seizures, to name a few.

Blastomycosis, for example, typically affects the lungs but may also cause draining skin nodules, weight loss, lameness, eye inflammation and enlarged lymph nodes.

In cats with cryptococcosis, masses inside the nose and deformation of the nose and face are classic clinical signs. Nasal discharge, skin lesions, eye abnormalities and neurologic signs such as seizures, difficulty walking and behavioral changes are other clinical signs.

How Is a Fungal Disease Diagnosed?

If a fungal disease is suspected, your veterinarian will give your pet a thorough physical exam and ask where you’ve traveled recently with your pet. Blood and urine tests may be recommended as well as chest X-rays if your pet is experiencing respiratory signs.

If your pet is experiencing nasal signs (such as discharge from the nose), a computerized tomography (CT) scan and nasal biopsy, or tissue sample, may be recommended to obtain a diagnosis. Generally, tissue and cell samples from the lesions tend to be the most specific way to diagnose fungal diseases.

Is Fungal Disease Treatable?

Once a diagnosis is confirmed, antifungal drugs are available for treatment.

Depending on the severity of clinical signs and disease, hospitalization and supportive care may also be recommended. This might include supplemental oxygen if severe respiratory signs are present, gastrointestinal supportive drugs and potentially a diet adjustment (if vomiting and/or diarrhea are involved), or pain medications if the infection has spread to the bones.

Treatment is often expensive and prolonged. You must be dedicated to administering the medication for up to several months and following up with your veterinarian to monitor your pet’s progress.

If your pet is showing clinical signs associated with fungal disease or if you are concerned that your pet may be at risk, please talk with your veterinarian. She will be able to discuss risk factors and determine if your pet has contracted a fungal infection.

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