UPDATE, 22 October 2008

David and Chiva are taking a break from the Tour de Dog but are sure to plan another ride in the near future. A sincere thank you to all of you who helped David and Chiva in countless ways. The Tour de Dog would not be possible without your support. THANK YOU!

View a Photo Documentary of Tour de Dog by Jason Houge

Tour de Dog is past states: Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ontario, and New York.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Kennel Cough, Valley Fever and California Rattlesnakes

The neurotoxic Mojave Rattlesnake.
(Photo:Utah Division of Wildlife Resources)

A couple days ago, Chiva was just not being her normal playful self. She was not howling with me nor was she jumping up to greet me. All she wanted to do was sleep, which is not rare for either of us this trip. When she started to cough, I knew something was not right. So I did what a responsible dog owner should do and took her to a vet.

I figured she must have picked up "kennel cough" from another dog at an animal shelter we had visited. After describing her symptoms (dry hacking cough followed by retching, still eating well, lethargic) as well as explaining where we had been recently, the vet determined that Chiva did indeed have the common canine upper respiratory infection known as kennel cough. The next step was to get her on antibiotics to quickly rid the bacteria as well as give her a cough suppressant at night so she was able to sleep in peace. I am happy to say Chiva is rapidly improving and almost full strength.

With a trip like the Tour de Dog, priority number one is to keep Chiva and me healthy. We have to both be 100% if we are to be biking and exploring such rugged and remote country. Although kennel cough is a relatively mild infection, it can potentially progress into more serious problems if left untreated.

More severe health threats for both Chiva and me exist in the California valley and desert country and are worth mentioning. According to a 2004 American Lung Association report, Bakersfield, California, has the third worst quality of air in the country. A more recent study has even moved Bakersfield past Fresno for the No. 2 position. It is just not smart nor responsible to be biking with your dog outside many days of the year here.

A big reason for the low air rating is the airborne fungi known to cause "Valley Fever" (coccidioidomycosis). Both humans and canines are susceptible, and I must do my best to avoid infection. When strong gusts of wind disrupt the soil, fungi spores are dispersed into the air and ultimately inahled by our lungs. Infection can cause fever, chest pain, and coughing. Remaining inside or wearing a good mask when outside is the best way to avoid infection. I will not bike with Chiva outside here in Bakersfield on windy and dusty days.

The recent wind storms have thrown dust and dirt into the air. The fungi spores are dispersed by the soil disruption and breathed into the lungs of people and animals. Photo: KERO 23 Bakersfield

This map highlights where Chiva and I should avoid becoming infected with Valley Fever. Source: http://www.valleyfever.com/

Rattlesnakes are another threat for Chiva and me. There are eight different species in California and all are venomous. When we wander out to explore the surrounding desert and mountains, we are entering their natural habitat and must be prepared. The mojave rattlesnake is regarded the most dangerous with its neurotoxic bite. What this means is that its venom will cause rapid paralysis of the respirartory muscles.

The other California rattlesnake bites are hemotoxic and will release toxins into the bloodstream that cause severe swelling (over 1/3 of blood circulation will flow to surrounding bite tissues in a matter of hours). The bottom line is Chiva and I must not disrupt these creatures if at all possible. If one of us were to get a bit, proper treatment is to recognize the bite and to seek medical attention as quickly as we can.

As I travel to different regions throughout the country, I must be aware of what we may encounter. Chiva will be by my side, but she is relying on me to make smart decisions.

For more information on the infections and threats I mentioned, click below:
Kennel Cough
Valley Fever
California Rattlesnake Bites


Anonymous said...

Poor Chiva! Lucky for her, she has you to look out for & take care of her. Give her a big hug from her friend Boca:-)

Your description of the dangers that you and Chiva will encounter on this leg of the trip sound straight out of an adventure movie . . . take care of yourself and Chiva.

Liz Day

Anonymous said...


Good article, your science background is showing. Yup...got to watch out for those pesky critters. Don't forget about Scorpions. Be sure to shake your stuff well before puting it on.


Anonymous said...

Hi Dave and Chiva!

Our thoughts are with you and Chiva on this journey. What an amazing time for you both!! We are glad to read that she is recovering from her kennel cough. :) Keep up the good work!!

Friends from Seattle,

Matt, Janey and Skuya ;)

Laura said...

Hi Dave and Chiva. Thanks for the updates. Glad to see you're on the lecture circuit. The dusty area looks beautiful (from the comfort of my apartment.)

Speaking of Valley Fever, do you know why the mushroom gets invited to a lot of parties?
-Because he's a "fun-guy!"

Good luck! Steve

Steve Shay said...

Above is from Seattle Steve and his girlfriend Laura.


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