Aspergillosis is a fungal infection, caused by the fungus Aspergillus fumigatus. The condition usually affects the different areas respiratory tract, notably the lungs and mucous membranes of the nose and mouth. Generalized aspergillosis is rare.
The predominant feature of primary aspergillosis of the nose is nasal discharge, which may be clear at first, but becomes pusy or bloody in later stages of the disease. Dogs have very sensitive noses, which is why infected dogs frequently paw at their nozzle. Sneezing and breathing sounds may also result from infection. In advanced stages of the infection the bone structure of the nose may disintegrate and become destroyed.
The fungus is found virtually anywhere in nature, i.e. in soil, in decaying plants or in fertilizer. The spores are breathed into the respiratory tract and may cause an infection. Long-nosed breeds like German Shepherd Dog or Doberman are more commonly affected.
Various methods are used to diagnose Aspergillosis. Normally an endoscopy of the nose is performed in order to retrieve samples that contain the fungal spores. Furthermore, diagnostic imaging such as x-rays or a CT scan are helpful in assessing the extent of the infection, as well as helping to check to see if the surrounding bone tissue has been affected. The surgical removal of affected bone tissue is avoided nowadays, as the side effects of the surgery are considered too stressful for the patient. Instead, nose washing is conducted every other week. In a nose wash, anti-fungal medicine is introduced into the infected area. If the sinuses are also affected, it may be necessary to drill an opening to the infected sinus in order be able to flush (wash) the area with anti-fungal medicine. Prognosis for recovery is good in nasal aspergillosis, but poor in the generalized variety.
Fungal infections require treatment. If left untreated, they can potentially spread out and infect other body organs. If you have noticed some of the symptoms mentioned above, please contact your veterinarian, describe the situation and arrange for an appointment within the next days. Please note that nasal washing usually leads to increased nasal discharge and sneezing. This is helpful and necessary in order to rid the animal’s body of the infectious agent. Washings are not performed by the owner but by a veterinarian. The animal will have to be given an anesthetic in order to put an endoscope into its nose in order to flush the nasal cavity with anti-fungal medicine.