FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - Fido may hold the answers to finding a cure for Valley fever, a disease spread through inhaling fungus living in dirt that mostly impacts humans and dogs.
According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, Arizona accounted for 65 percent of Valley fever cases reported nationally in 2014.
There were also 717 hospitalizations statewide due to the disease.
"In 2009, in July, when he was only about 7 months old, we noticed a big swelling on his right forearm," said Dan Stoffel, whose dog Tanner was diagnosed with Valley fever. "And we thought he had broken or strained or dislocated something in his leg."
After a trip to the vet, it was confirmed to be Valley fever that had spread beyond Tanner's lungs and into his leg.
Tanner was prescribed medication that helped manage his symptoms, which he had to take for several years. He is now in remission, but still at risk for the disease coming back.
"The only challenge we have right now is we have to do the blood tests periodically and we can't take him down to lower altitudes," Stoffel said. "We don't take him down to Phoenix to visit."
There is no cure for Valley fever, which is why Stoffel agreed to participate in a research project aimed at finding answers for the many unanswered questions.
"We know the highest prevalence in the United States occurs in Maricopa County, Pinal County and Gila County," said Bridget Barker, an associate professor with the pathogen genomics division at TGen's north campus in Flagstaff.
The "Valley fever P.A.W.S" project is in phase one of research and working to collect data from 2,000 dog owners.
"What that will help us solve is this question of, 'Why do some people get sick and some people don’t get sick at all?" Barker said.
A brief online form asks dog owners questions about their pet's breed, health history and lifestyle.
All dog owners are welcome to participate, including healthy dogs and those who have been diagnosed with Valley Fever.
The goal is to collect a broad spectrum of data that may reveal trends with the disease: What breeds are more susceptible? What areas are more prone to infection?
TGen would like to collect the data by December so phase two, where 100 selected participants will submit dog saliva for testing, can begin.
The research could open doors to finding a cure in dogs and eventually humans, too.
"The more information we can get out there -- It might help other people and their dogs and that would be worth it," Stoffel said.
To participate in TGen's data collection, click here.
Copyright 2016 KPNX