Unusual, potentially fatal respiratory illness sickens dog in US

An unusual and potentially fatal respiratory illness is sickening dogs and causing other deaths in several states across the country.

According to TODAYThe illness begins with a simple cough, but lasts for several weeks and may not respond to typical treatment like antibiotics, leaving the dog to have difficulty breathing and suffer from severe pneumonia.

In addition to coughing, Oregon Department of Agriculture reported other symptoms, including sneezing, runny eyes or nose, difficulty breathing, and fatigue.

Dog owners who observe any of the symptoms mentioned above are encouraged to take their dog to the veterinarian immediately.

Speaking to TODAY, Dr. Lindsey Ganzer, veterinarian and CEO of North Springs Veterinary Referral Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, said: “It seems to happen very, very quickly – going from this cough that just won’t go away… and then all of a sudden they develop this pneumonia.”

Dr. Ganzer reveals that his hospital has seen more than 30 dogs with this mysterious illness since mid-October. She also reveals that most of them had recently spent time at a dog boarding or daycare.

She also explains that dogs are more likely to contract the disease from being in close contact with other dogs. So, places like doggie daycares, dog parks, groomers, and/or kennels are where dogs can contract it.

Additionally, she says cases are not slowing down at her hospital – with two to three cases per day and four to five dogs succumbing to the disease.

Another veterinarian at VCA Alameda East Veterinary Hospital in Denver, Dr. Gina Kettig, reveals that the disease has become “concerning” as she has witnessed a plethora of these infections in recent times.

“We use our isolation room a lot with all these infections” Dr. Kettig tells TODAY.

TODAY reports that veterinarians in the following states are confirmed to have seen cases matching the description of the mysterious illness:

  • Oregon
  • Colorado
  • New Hampshire
  • California
  • Indiana
  • Illinois
  • Washington
  • Idaho
  • Georgia
  • Florida
  • Pennsylvania
Dog in an oxygen mask
Daria Lixovetckay / Shutterstock.com

NBC News reveals that researchers at the University of New Hampshire Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory and the Hubbard Center for Genome Studies have identified a pathogen that may be causing this mysterious illness.

Researchers told NBC News that a previously unidentified germ was detected in genetic sequencing of samples from 30 dogs infected in New Hampshire last year and another 40 dogs in Rhode Island and Massachusetts infected this year .

Dr. David Needle, chief of the pathology section at the University of New Hampshire College of Life Sciences and Agriculture, told NBC News that the germ “is new as a potential cause of disease, but it is likely that it is a component of, or evolved from, the dog microbiome.”

And while discovering the pathogen is an important step in identifying the disease, veterinarians still don’t know if it’s actually the one causing the deadly disease.

So while veterinarians are still studying the cause of the illness, they are encouraging dog owners to be more careful and limit contact with other dogs.

Furthermore, the Oregon Department of Agriculture wrote, “We suggest caution rather than concern.” We’ve also listed the following tips to help dog owners protect their pets from illness:

  • Reduce contact with large numbers of unfamiliar dogs. Just as with other respiratory pathogens, the more contact your dog has, the greater the risk of encountering a contagious dog.
  • Reduce contact with sick dogs. This can be harder to determine, but if a dog appears sick (coughing, runny nose, runny eyes), keep him away from your dog.
  • Keep sick dogs home and consult a veterinarian.
  • Avoid communal water bowls shared by multiple dogs.
  • Ask your veterinarian for advice on which vaccines your dog should receive. Common vaccines include dog flu, Bordetella and parainfluenza.
  • If sick, consider having your dog tested with a PCR test to help determine the causative agent (viral/bacterial), if possible.


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