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In the Pacific Northwest there are many natural diseases hiding under rocks, in fields, or in puddles, waiting to get past our pets’ immune systems. However there’s one disease that we’re very fortunate to rarely ever encounter: Valley Fever. This special disease, caused by a fungus known as Coccidiodes immitis, is found in desert regions such as the American Southwest region including California, Arizona, Nevada, Texas, and more. While dogs and other pets living in the Pacific Northwest might not encounter the fungi here, many dogs are moved from high kill shelters in the Southwest to loving homes in the PNW, and sometimes those dogs have Valley Fever.

One such dog is a young Mr. Johnny Cash. Cash is a very sweet little white shadow of an Aussie who loves to be next to his person and is available for adoption from Deaf Dogs of Oregon at the time of writing this blog post. Cash was rescued from a high-kill shelter in the Southwest and discovered to have Valley Fever. To understand what that means for dogs like Cash, read on!

What is Valley Fever?

As mentioned before, this disease is caused by the fungus known as Coccidiodes immitis. This pathogenic fungus can and does most commonly infect humans, but it also can infect a wide range of other animals including cats and dogs. Dogs are especially susceptible because they like to sniff and dig in the soil which is where C. immitis grows. During the dry season, C. immitis exits in a dormant mode in the soil and is not infectious, but after a wet-spell the fungus grows long filaments of mold with infectious spores on the ends. When these spores are inhaled into living organisms they create yeast-like infections in the lungs.

Is Valley Fever contagious?

No. Valley Fever cannot spread from organism to organism. While in yeast-like form (when it has infected a living organism) it does not create the spores which are the only infectious part of C. immitis.

What does Valley Fever look like?

In healthy dogs and cats, their immune system usually isolates the fungus and prevents them from causing symptoms of the disease. Many infected animals don’t show any signs at all. However in dogs with weakened immune systems, including very young puppies and older dogs, these infections will grow too large for the immune systems to handle and can cause visible symptoms of the disease and infect other organs.

Valley Fever is classified into two diseases, the Primary Disease and the Disseminated Disease:

  • In the Primary Disease, the infection is limited to the lungs. About three weeks after infection symptoms such as a dry cough, fever, lack of appetite, and lethargy become apparent.
  • In the Disseminated Disease, the infection spreads beyond the lungs and infects other organs including the brain, bones, heart, and eyes. Often it affects the bones and the symptoms will then progress to looking something like arthritis. Dogs suffering will show signs of lameness or limb swelling. Other symptoms of the Disseminated version of Valley Fever may include wounds that don’t heal*, swollen lymph nodes, back or neck pain, seizures, inflamed and/or cloudy eyes, abscesses under the skin, and even unexpected heart-failure. Sometimes a dog may show no symptoms of the Primary Disease before showing symptoms of the Disseminated Disease.

Cash’s Valley Fever has infected his bones, but as he’s on regular antifungal medication the disease is not progressing further and is healing up. This does cause him to act like he has arthritis and be limited in movement, but this will go away when his infection does.

*Special note that if the dog does have open wounds that are oozing liquid, while the number of organisms shed in the liquid should be low (when receiving antifungal medication), this liquid may still contain fungus that could spore again and become infectious to humans and other creatures in the household. Therefore bandages should be changed daily and thrown away directly into outside waste containers to prevent sporing from happening in the house. Non-permeable surfaces can be cleaned with a diluted (10%) bleach solution. For most people and animals with healthy immune systems, there should be little to no risk even if a dog has an infected open wound, and the liquid oozing itself is not infectious since it does not contain spores. However households that have immuno-compromised members should consult with a doctor or a vet and follow their instructions on how to maintain a spore free home. (And once again, Cash does not have this problem and is NOT contagious.)

How is Valley Fever diagnosed?

In the Pacific Northwest, where Valley Fever is not native, you’ll need to let your veterinarian know the travel history of your new dog. If they then suspect that their symptoms come from Valley Fever, there are a few different blood tests that can be used to diagnose Valley Fever, along with x-rays of the chest or bones.

How is Valley Fever treated?

If your dog is sick enough to be seen by a veterinarian for Valley Fever, then the disease will likely need to be treated by extensive antifungal medications with courses usually lasting between 6 and 12 months. If the disease has progressed into the disseminated stage, then the treatment may be longer. The medication is easy to administer, it’s usually just provided orally in the form of pills or capsules twice a day.

For dogs with bone or joint pain or coughing, other medications may be prescribed as well to relieve the suffering from these symptoms.

If you have a dog with Valley Fever, you can still go on vacation no problem! Hot Diggity! Sitters know how to administer pet medications and will stick to your medication schedule to ensure your pet’s health while you’re away.

And to help out the new furever family of Cash, Deaf Dogs of Oregon is paying for a full year’s worth of medication (starting from when he moved up to Oregon, so about another 10 months left now)! So his new family won’t even have to worry about figuring out what medication to put him on or paying for it for several months and hopefully the majority of his treatment.

What is the prognosis for a Valley Fever infection?

With early detection and intervention, most dogs recover from Valley Fever. Even with the Disseminated Disease version of Valley Fever, more than 90% of dogs respond well to treatment and recover. Only a very small portion of dogs either need lifetime treatment or will die from the disease.

In short.

Valley Fever is a highly treatable disease that is common in dogs rescued from Southwest shelters. Left undiagnosed and untreated, it can become severe and dangerous to the dog, but when treated there is a high success rate of clearing up the infection. It is not contagious to humans or other animals, just painful and unpleasant for the infected pet. With love and care, as all pets need anyways, almost all dogs recover from this disease to live the rest of their lives happily and healthily.

So you can expect a lot of happy years with the lovely and sweet Mr. Johnny Cash if you adopt him!

And as an added help, Hot Diggity! will provide any family that adopts Cash 3 Free 30-Minute Walks to help transition him to his new home as well as a lifetime 10% discount on all of our services for all pets in the family.

To learn more about Cash, you can read about him here or just contact Deaf Dogs of Oregon and meet him yourself!

Oh, and are you worried about adopting a deaf dog? Don’t! Does your hearing dog really listen to you anyways? Just kidding. 😉 But really, deaf dogs are just like normal dogs and especially since most of them are Australian Shepherds, extremely intelligent and highly trainable. Plus when you adopt through Deaf Dogs of Oregon they’ll have already undergone some training from being in foster care and you get a free training session with a specialized trainer too.

Additional Reading:

While it might be difficult to get used to at first for either a new cat owner or a new cat, nail trimming is an important part of keeping your feline healthy. Without regular trimming, cat’s nails can actually grow long enough that they will curve into the cat’s paws. This is not only painful, it can lead to serious infections too. Thankfully, trimming your cat’s nails doesn’t have to be an H. P. Lovecraft horror fest with a few training tips and tricks.

  • Start by training your cat to be comfortable with their paws being handled. While they’re relaxed from being pet, offer them treats while you handle their paws. Don’t continue if they become uncomfortable, and stop the treats when you stop handling their paws.
  • If they already like being on their back, this is the best position to be able to trim their nails in and a great time to train them to be comfortable with having their paws handled. However some adult cats already don’t like being on their backs and will have a hard time with it, so you’ll have to find an alternative position where they’re comfortable.
  • For adult cats that are already afraid of nail trimmers, help improve their association by pulling out the nail trimmers during happier times such as feeding and petting. Don’t use them at these times, but just place them nearby so that they become familiar with their form and reduce their negative association with them.
  • When do you trim a cat’s nails, start with just one at a time and then give them a treat. While they’re eating, cut the next nail if you can. It helps at this point to have an assistant providing your cat the treats.
  • Especially at first, don’t trim more than five at a time. This helps reduce the stress buildup from reaching the point where your cat will want to run away.
  • If your cat really really can’t stand it, you can gently wrap them in a towel and trim one foot at a time. Even with this method it’s best not to go for all four paws at once. If they’re angry or stressed that will build up their negative association with trimmers and make every attempt difficult and unpleasant. However if used gently, the towel method can be a helpful training tool in the beginning for particularly skittish kitties.
  • Make sure you’re not trimming their nails too far! You only want to clip off the sharp clear end, avoiding the pink quick inside which is sensitive. This is why it’s helpful to have an assistant, your cat comfortable so they’re not pulling away, and especially to have trimers that are sharp and easy for you to handle and see the nail while using.

Here’s a handy video to give you a visual overview of the process of trimming your cat’s nails,

We wish you luck with helping your cat become comfortable getting their nails trimmed! If you have any other tips or tricks, feel free to let us know! And if you’re on the lookout for a new feline best friend, check out some of our favorite cat rescues on our Community Partners page.

Further reading: http://www.vetstreet.com/our-pet-experts/trim-your-cats-nails-without-the-stress

Portland Dog Walker and Pet Sitter WhitneyHello everyone! My name is Whitney, and I have been a walker with Hot Diggity! for a year and a half now. This job is so special and rewarding, I love all the different animals I get to encounter through dog walking and pet sitting here. But one thing I’ve noticed over my time here is that many Portland pet owners seem to prefer buying purebred pets instead of rescuing the mixed breed dogs more commonly found in shelters. Sometimes rescued dogs may be a little harder to win over, but it’s so gratifying when you finally make that breakthrough! I may be a bit biased when it comes to rescues since I come from a household of four shelter dogs, each with their own set of quirks and personal issues, but finally gaining their trust really is the most rewarding and special part about rescued pets.

When you walk into a shelter, you may think you have an idea of what you are looking for, but choosing a rescue it isn’t about what you see, it’s how you feel when you interact with them. It’s an instant connection or an overwhelming feeling that makes you say “this is the one!” You may not always find that special one your first couple of shelter visits, but it is absolutely worth the wait.

Here are three fantastic local Portland shelters that I’d recommend checking out to find your next best friend:

Family Dogs New Life ShelterFind your new best friend to take on walks in Portland at Family Dogs New Life Shelter

With a 4 Star Yelp rating this shelter is a non profit no-kill, that focuses on giving dogs of all breeds and ages a second chance at finding the right match. They typically only take 35-50 dogs at a time, so that all the dogs can interact and run around together, but are put in their own crates at night. This gives them a perfect balance for being well socialized, but always gets the dogs in good sleeping habits. I love that like myself they have a soft spot for Pit Bulls which are a very loving and misunderstood breed. They’ve even created a section on their website called “Piteos”, which features adorable Pit Bull video’s! The website also contains information on ways to help out such as volunteering or fostering information, upcoming special events to help support the shelter, or how you can even sponsor a dog. All the little things Family Dogs New Life Shelter does to help their rescues just make my heart melt!

Find your new cat or dog best friend at the Pixie ProjectThe Pixie Project
While Family Dogs New Life Shelter may be a dogs only club, The Pixie Project not only has dogs, but cats as well if that is what you are looking for. With a Yelp 4 Star rating this shelter also has a lower count of animals in house at a time so that they can focus on giving them more attention and matching them with the right fur-ever home. The Pixie Project often pulls a lot of its rescues from overcrowded shelters or takes in owner surrenders. Another stand out about this Shelter is its low cost Veterinary Clinic to senior, veterans, disabled, homeless or low-income pet owners, with free spay and neutering. Like Family Dogs New Life Shelter, The Pixie Project has volunteer and fostering information, and holds special events to help animals in need. Make sure to pay attention to our Events page! We often donate gift certificates to their fundraisers and will let you know when events for them are coming up.

Oregon Humane SocietyTake a new best friend home today from the Oregon Humane Society and enjoy all the perks of being a pet owner in Portland
The Oregon Humane Society is perhaps the largest and most well-known shelter in the greater Portland area. They have a 4 Star Yelp rating and a huge variety of pets to select from. At OHS not only can you adopt cats and dogs, but you can also adopt rabbits, rats, birds, and even horses and farm animals! This shelter offers low-to no cost spay and neutering services, volunteering opportunities, as well as Emergency Animal Rescue for mistreated pets, or animals who are in danger or distraught. No doubt that OHS has done so much good for Portland pets over the decades. I know I have personally donated a good amount of money to supporting their cause!

I hope after reading this you feel inspired to go adopt instead of shop. Maybe even consider taking in a sweet elderly dog and give it the best final years of its life. Or take a risk on the dog who perhaps doesn’t mesh well with other dogs, but loves people. Or you could take home the funny looking kitty, because it wasn’t pretty enough to be sold at a pet store. If you do not feel ready to commit to a pet for the next several years of its life, perhaps shorter term fostering is the best path for you. Shelters also are always in need of volunteers to give these lonesome furbabes some loving attention.

And if you still have breed preferences, there’s always breed specific rescue organizations where you can combine your love for a particular breed with helping an in-need pet. Just check out our Community Partners page for more shelters and rescue organizations that Hot Diggity! loves and supports.

Be a pet’s hero and save a life. Let’s make the world a better place!

Whitney, a great Portland dog walker and pet sitter, took this cute picture of two of her sweet rescue dogs