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Histoplasmosis in Dogs

By: Dr. Arnold Plotnick

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Histoplasmosis is a non-contagious fungal infection of dogs, cats, other domestic and non-domestic animals, and humans. It is caused by inhalation of a fungus called Histoplasma capsulatum carried on dust with a primary infection in the lung.

In dogs, evidence suggests that prolonged exposure to high levels of Histoplasma organisms increase the risk of contracting the disease. Young age is a risk factor, as well as breed and sex: a large study found an increased risk in pointers, weimaraners, and Brittanys. It is also seen more frequently in males, with the risk being 1.2 times that seen in females.

The impact of the disease on a particular dog is significant; treatment is expensive and prolonged, and the prognosis is poor.

Watch to Watch For

  • Acute weight loss/emaciation
  • Depression
  • Fever
  • Poor appetite
  • Anemia
  • Labored breathing
  • Enlarged liver
  • Enlarged spleen
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Lameness
  • Skin disease
  • Diarrhea (the most common sign in dogs)
  • Eye disease

    Diagnosis

    A definitive diagnosis of histoplasmosis requires detecting Histoplasma organisms in the tissues of cats and dogs showing clinical signs compatible with the disease. Several other tests are also recommended to gather information that supports a diagnosis of histoplasmosis.

  • Complete blood count
  • Chemistry panel and urinalysis
  • Radiographs
  • Complete ophthalmic exam
  • Rectal scrapings (dogs)
  • Bone marrow examination
  • Cytology of fine-needle aspirates
  • Biopsy
  • Serologic tests
  • Culture

    Treatment

  • Antifungal drugs
  • Supportive care

    Home Care and Prevention

    Provide good nutrition and administer all medications as prescribed.

    No specific preventive measures exist regarding histoplasmosis.

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