Exactly how many dogs the disease affects is hard to say. There aren't many diseases that are tracked in dogs, other than severe illnesses that could be passed to humans, like rabies.
At one point, researchers estimated about 6 percent of dogs in Arizona got sick with valley fever annually and that pet owners spent millions of dollars on the costs of diagnostics, follow-up care and medication.
Valley fever affects cats, too, but Shubitz estimated there is about one cat case for every 50 dog cases. In dogs, valley fever is frequently found in their bones, while it often manifests in cats' skin, she said.
Bobbi Duke lives in northeast Bakersfield, near the Kern River. The disease struck her border collie Lucas and cat Crash within a couple of months of each other about six years ago, Duke said.
Lucas just seemed unwell when Duke took him to the vet and he was diagnosed with valley fever, but Crash had a sore on one of his front legs that kept getting bigger. The leg eventually was amputated.
Both animals recovered with several months of medication.
Paulson said the advent of a generic fluconazole has made treating valley fever much more affordable.
"People love their pets, but people put a limit on what they can spend on them," he said.
A question of money
While vets said there isn't much money directed to valley fever research in animals, at least one new medication for people has been tested in dogs, and Shubitz said there is renewed interested in funding a vaccine for dogs.
The current possibility for a dog vaccine is a mutated live form of the fungus that can't reproduce and has been tested in mice, she said.
The next step would be to fund a dog study. But developing a vaccine could take more than $1 million.
Still, Shubitz thinks it could happen.
"I actually think there's a bigger market for a vaccine in dogs than in humans," Shubitz said. "People spend so much money trying to treat this in dogs they would do anything to try to prevent it."
But a vaccine would have to be affordable and the market for it would be small compared to the number of dogs that need to be vaccinated for rabies and distemper.
Some veterinarians said they were skeptical that a vaccine will be developed because of the cost.
Without a vaccine, veterinarians said there isn't much people can do to prevent their pets from developing the illness.
Keeping dogs inside on dusty, windy days and trying to dissuade them from exploring rodent holes could help, but there's no way to avoid the fungal spores if you live in an endemic area like the valley, Shubitz said.