!Let's Talk! Button

The Mysterious Canine Respiratory Disease: Key Facts For Lapel, IN Dog Owners

December 15, 2023

If you’ve been watching the news lately, you may have noticed stories and reports about a mysterious respiratory illness that is affecting our canine pals. This is definitely something for pet owners in the area to be aware of. The as-yet-untitled disease has been reported in several states, with several more suspected cases in other areas. Official warnings have been issued by several groups, including both Colorado and Oregon’s departments of agriculture and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). A local Lapel, IN vet offers some information on this issue in this article.

What Is The Mystery Canine Respiratory Illness?

The illness hasn’t been positively identified, and we are not yet sure if this is a new disease, or a mutated strain of something familiar.

We do know that the illness is quite similar to kennel cough. Kennel cough isn’t in itself a single disease: the term is often used as an umbrella term to describe several respiratory illnesses in dogs. Kennel cough can be caused by viruses or bacteria. As the name suggests, it usually leads to a severe cough.

The biggest distinction between kennel cough and the mystery illness isn’t good. Kennel cough usually clears up with proper treatment. However, the canine mystery illness doesn’t respond to standard treatments.

The severity of the illness is another thing that makes it concerning. Infected dogs may get very, very sick very, very fast. Although many pooches recover with proper treatment, unfortunately that isn’t always the case. Fido may develop a long-term case or a secondary infection. Some dogs have required surgical removal of infected tissue, while others had to be put on ventilators. Several dogs have died, with some succumbing at an alarmingly fast rate. This is uncommon and concerning, especially considering that some of the pups were young and healthy. 

What Causes The Mystery Illness?

While there is much more information needed, researchers are closing in on a potential culprit. Researchers from the University of New Hampshire’s Veterinary Diagnosis Laboratory and the Hubbard Center for Genome Studies announced that they have identified a pathogen. This information was released after they finished processing the results of genetic samplings of 70 dogs. About 40 were from Massachusetts and Rhode Island, and got sick this year. The other 30 were New Hampshire pooches that were infected last year. 

Researchers have referred to the pathogen in question as a “funky bacterium” which seems to be adept at avoiding and defeating dogs’ natural immune systems. It does not appear to be able to survive for long outside a host, though, again, more research is needed.

Where Are The Mysterious Dog Illness Outbreaks?

So far, outbreaks have been recorded in over 16 states, including California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. (Oregon alone has had over 200 cases, which go back to the beginning of August.)

Keep in mind that these numbers may not be precise. Most states aren’t officially tracking the outbreak. Additionally, because there is no test, many cases have been reported based on symptoms. That can get tricky, because several other respiratory issues, such as Bordetella and canine parainfluenza may have similar ones. In fact, canine respiratory issues are sometimes grouped under the umbrella term ‘kennel cough’.

Can People Catch The Mysterious Dog Respiratory Disease?

There is some good news here. Research done by the American Veterinary Medical Association and other organizations indicates that the risk of human contagion seems very low. We’re also happy to report that the illness does not appear to be sickening other pets. That said, we would still recommend washing your hands thoroughly after petting or handling your furry friend.

How Do I Protect My Canine Companion From The Mystery Illness?

Until the culprit has been officially identified and a vaccine developed, there is no foolproof way to ensure that your canine companion won’t come down with the respiratory illness. However, there are things you can do to lower Fido’s risk of contagion.

First and foremost, make sure that your canine pal is fully up to date on key vaccines. While the Bordetella vaccine is considered a non-core vaccine, it’s always recommended—and often required—especially for pups that are going to be in close contact with other dogs, whether at daycare, boarding facilities, parks, or even playdates. Ask your Lapel, IN veterinarian for more information.

Some pooches are more at risk than others. Dogs with compromised immune systems and/or known respiratory issues are most at risk. Puppies that haven’t yet gotten all of their vaccines may also be in danger, as are brachys, such as pugs and bulldogs. 

Keep an eye out for symptoms. If you notice anything wrong, contact your Lapel, IN veterinarian right away. The sooner the condition is diagnosed and treated, the better!

How Is The Canine Respiratory Illness Diagnosed?

Things get a bit tricky here, as there isn’t yet a definitive test. However, the pooches that were diagnosed with the mystery illness test negative for more common forms of canine respiratory illness. They also struggle to get over the infection. Usually, dogs with respiratory illnesses will have a cough that lasts about a week or so. With this illness, that cough persists longer than that, and doesn’t respond to standard treatments.

What Are The Warning Signs Of The Mysterious Dog Illness?

Symptoms are quite similar to those of typical canine respiratory issues. Coughing is the biggest one. That cough may start mildly, and then accelerate. It also may linger for weeks and/or worsen into pneumonia.

Lethargy is also an indicator. Fido may seem extremely tired, and may spend his time snoozing in his bed, rather than wanting to play or cuddle. Other warning signs include rapid, labored breathing; discharge from the eyes or nose; fever; wheezing; loss of appetite; weight loss; and dehydration.

If you notice any of these symptoms, don’t wait to see what happens: call your vet immediately. We always advise that people give us emergency clinics a call before bringing pets in. That goes double in this case, because of the risk of contagion. 

How Widespread Is The Mystery Canine Respiratory Illness?

We’re not entirely sure, as new cases continue to trickle in. One issue that is muddling the numbers a bit is the fact that there may be some false negatives in testing. This is because of the window between the time when a pooch is actively ‘shedding’ virus, and the time that the dog becomes sick enough to require veterinary care.

How Does The New Canine Respiratory Illness Spread?

The disease seems to be airborne. Fido may get sick after breathing the same air as infected pooches. It could also be spread through direct contact, such as by nose boops, and/or by sharing toys, bowls, and/or dishes. Any gathering of dogs is a potential hotspot for infection. However, places such as dog groomers’ salons, kennels, dog parks, and doggy daycares are likely the most dangerous spots.

You don’t necessarily have to quarantine your canine pal, unless he’s symptomatic, though your vet may recommend limiting Fido’s contact with other dogs if he is at high risk. Just take some precautions. If you’re planning to board or travel with Fido this month, find out if any dogs at his destinations have been afflicted. If you’re using a kennel or groomer over the holidays, talk to them about it. If they don’t seem to be taking the issue seriously, you may want to rethink things. Ask your Lapel, IN veterinarian for specific advice.Do you have questions about your dog’s health or care? Please feel free to contact us, your local Lapel, IN pet hospital, anytime!