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Aspergillosis in Dogs

By: Dr. Arnold Plotnick

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Aspergillosis is a fungal infection caused by a species of fungus belonging to the genus Aspergillus. The nasal cavity and respiratory system are most commonly affected, although in some dogs the infection may spread throughout the body with grave consequence.

Nasal aspergillosis is a localized form involving the nose, ears and paranasal sinuses and is usually caused by the fungus Aspergillus fumigatus. Disseminated aspergillosis is characterized by signs of generalized infection and is caused by the fungus Aspergillus tereus.

Dogs with medium or long noses are more likely to get nasal aspergillosis. Short nosed breeds such as pugs, bulldogs and Pekingese are less likely. Pre-existing nasal disease and/or prolonged antibiotic therapy predisposes to nasal infection. German shepherds are at higher risk for disseminated aspergillosis compared to other breeds. Diseases or conditions that suppress the immune system such as diabetes and chemotherapy also predispose to developing disseminated disease.

Dogs of any age are susceptible to nasal aspergillosis, but 40 percent of cases are seen in dogs younger than 3, and 80 percent in dogs younger than 7 years of age.

The impact of aspergillosis varies depending on whether it is confined to the nasal cavity only, or disseminated throughout the body. Many nasal infections are treated successfully, while most disseminated infections eventually prove fatal.

What to Watch For

Nasal aspergillosis

  • Ulceration (open sores) around the nostrils
  • Pain or discomfort in the facial region
  • Profuse bloody and/or pus-filled nasal discharge that may alternate with periods of nasal bleeding

    Disseminated aspergillosis

  • Anorexia
  • Weight loss
  • Muscle wasting
  • Fever
  • Weakness
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Uveitis/endophthalmitis (inflammation of the structures of the eye)
  • Back pain
  • Paralysis

    Diagnosis

    Nasal aspergillosis

  • Cytology
  • Biopsy
  • Serology
  • Radiology
  • Rhinoscopy

    Disseminated aspergillosis

  • Complete blood count and chemistry panel
  • Urinalysis
  • Cytology
  • Culture
  • Serology
  • Biopsy
  • Radiology

    Treatment

    Nasal aspergillosis

  • Systemic antifungal drugs
  • Topical antifungal drugs

    Disseminated aspergillosis

  • Systemic antifungal drugs

    Home Care and Prevention

    No specific home care recommendations are necessary for dogs with nasal aspergillosis. Dogs with disseminated aspergillosis that are being treated for paralysis must be conscientiously managed. Physical therapy and cleanliness to prevent soiling and urine scalding are very important

    There are no specific preventative measures against aspergillosis. There is no vaccine.

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