Aspergillosis is a fungal infection that invades the respiratory system, ears, throat and mouth. Dogs can inhale fungi spores or 'conidia' naturally present in the environment, such as in straw, grass or grain. The Aspergillus fungi develop in tissue and lead to cell death and formation of abscesses. Younger dogs may suffer from two types of Aspergillus infection: Nasal Aspergillosis or Disseminated Aspergillosis.
Symptoms of Nasal Aspergillosis include nasal discharge, often odorous, and nose bleeds. Ulcerations may appear on the external part of the nose, at the edges of the nostrils. Dogs may experience pain or discomfort in the nose or facial region. This invasive infection destroys the bones of the sinuses. Symptoms of Disseminated Aspergillosis include bone infection. Which part of the body the fungus infects can determine the symptoms. The fungus invades the respiratory tracts or other organs through the bloodstream. The fungi may also attack the intervertebral discs of the spine. Common signs include weakness, uveitis (deep inflammation of the eye), fever, lameness, draining tracts, appetite loss and other symptoms that often show too late in a systemic disease. German Shepherds may be more prone to Disseminated Aspergillosis.
Diagnosis may be from two of the following: radio graphs, fungal plaques, tissue biopsy or nasal discharge, or a blood test that is positive for antibodies. X-rays may reveal bone destruction patterns. Problems with antibody tests include knowing what species of Aspergillus to test.
If any dog, but particularly a German Shepherd, develops a persistent runny nose, don't waste time ask for a test for Aspergillosis.