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The Unknown Canine Respiratory Disease: Key Facts For Ardmore, OK Dog Owners

December 15 2023

If you’ve been watching the news lately, you may have noticed reports about a mysterious respiratory illness that is affecting our canine companions. This is definitely something for people with pups to be aware of. Cases of the new mystery disease have been reported in over vet16 states, with more being reported all the time. Official warning statements have been issued by several groups, including both Colorado and Oregon’s departments of agriculture and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). Read on as an Ardmore, OK veterinarian goes over some basic information on this concerning new issue.

What Are The Signs Of The Mysterious Canine Respiratory Illness?

Warning signs are similar to those of other respiratory issues. Coughing is the big one. That cough may start mildly, and then accelerate. It also may linger for weeks and, in many cases, has worsened into pneumonia.

Other red flags include rapid, labored breathing; discharge from the eyes or nose; fever; wheezing; loss of appetite; weight loss; and dehydration. Lethargy is also a warning sign. Your furry best buddy may seem extremely tired, and may choose snoozing in his doggy bed over playing Fetch or chasing the neighborhood squirrels. Contact your vet ASAP if you spot any of these. (Note: Because of the possibility of contagion, before bringing Fido into the clinic, contact your Ardmore, OK veterinary or emergency clinic and let them know your pooch is showing symptoms.)

How Is The Mystery Canine Respiratory Illness Spread?

The disease seems to be airborne, with pups apparently getting sick after breathing the same air as infected pooches. It could also spread through direct contact, and/or sharing bowls, toys, and bedding.  

As a general rule of thumb, it’s probably wise to consider any gathering of doggos a potential hotspot for infection. That means that places such as dog groomers’ salons, kennels, dog parks, and doggy daycares are likely the most dangerous areas. 

Can Humans Catch The Mysterious Dog Disease?

Research from the American Veterinary Medical Association and other organizations has found that the risk of human contagion is very low. We’re also happy to report that the illness does not appear to be sickening other pets. However, we would still recommend washing your hands thoroughly after petting or handling your furry friend. This can help reduce the spread of germs.

How Do I Protect My Dog From Mystery Illness?

Until the culprit has been officially identified and a vaccine developed, there is no foolproof way to ensure that your canine pal won’t contract the respiratory illness. However, there are ways to lower Fido’s risk of contagion.

First and foremost, make sure that your furry best buddy is fully up to date on key vaccines. While the Bordetella vaccine is considered a non-core vaccine, it’s recommended for pups that are going to be in contact with other dogs, whether at daycare, boarding facilities, parks, or even playdates. In fact, any decent facility will require it. Ask your Ardmore, OK veterinary clinic for more information.

We also recommend taking extra care with dogs that are at elevated risk. These include seniors, pooches with weak immune systems and/or other respiratory issues, and brachys, such as pugs. 

What Is The Mystery Dog Illness?

That’s the big question. So far, the illness hasn’t been positively identified. There are a lot of possibilities here … and plenty of questions. For instance, it’s not yet known if this is a new disease, or a new strain of something familiar.

This is what we do know: 

The illness is quite similar to kennel cough. Kennel cough isn’t in itself a single disease: the term is often used 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 one we like. Kennel cough usually clears up with proper treatment. However, the new illness doesn’t respond to the treatments usually used for kennel cough. Fido could also develop a long-term case or a secondary infection. 

The severity of the illness is another thing that makes it so concerning. The afflicted dogs also often get very, very sick very, very fast. Although many of the pooches did recover with proper treatment, others unfortunately deteriorated. Some of the sick pups required surgical removal of infected tissue, while others were put on ventilators. This is quite uncommon, especially considering that some of the pups were young and healthy. Several of the infected dogs have died, with some succumbing at an alarmingly fast rate. In fact, some of the pooches got very sick in just 24 to 48 hours. 

What Causes The Mystery Illness?

While there is still a lot of information needed, research is closing in on a potential culprit. Researchers from the University of New Hampshire’s Veterinary Diagnosis Laboratory and the Hubbard Center for Genome Studies claim to have identified a pathogen. The pathogen in question has been referred to as a “funky bacterium” and seems to be adept at avoiding and defeating Fido’s natural immune system. Researchers announced this after processing the genetic samplings of 70 dogs. About 30 of the dogs were from New Hampshire and were infected last year. The rest were Massachusetts and Rhode Island, and got sick this year.

Where Are The Mysterious Dog Illness Outbreaks Occurring?

Several states have reported outbreaks—or at least suspected outbreaks—of the unknown disease. The official list includes 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, going back to the beginning of August. Cases have also been reported in Canada. 

Keep in mind that these numbers may not be precise. Most states are not officially tracking the outbreak. Additionally, because there is no official test yet, many cases were reported based on symptoms. That can make things tricky, because several other respiratory issues, such as Bordetella and canine parainfluenza, have very similar symptoms. 

Another issue that is muddling the numbers is the fact that there may be some false negatives. This isn’t uncommon when testing for specific pathogens. This is because of the window of time between the point when a dog is actively ‘shedding’ virus, and the point where that pet becomes sick enough to require veterinary care.

How Is The Mystery Canine Respiratory Illness Diagnosed?

Things get a bit tricky here, too, as there isn’t yet a definitive test for the new mystery illness. However, the pups that have been diagnosed with it tested negative for more common forms of canine respiratory illness. They also tend to struggle to get over the infection. Usually, when our canine companions  get respiratory illnesses, the resulting cough only lasts a week or two. With this particular illness, that cough is much more stubborn, and sometimes just lingers on and on.

Conclusion: A new unknown canine respiratory illness is spreading across the country. While pet owners shouldn’t panic, it is important for you to know the warning signs. These include coughing, fatigue, weakness, reduced appetite, and nasal discharge. Contact your vet right away if you spot any of these.
Do you have questions about your dog’s health or care? Contact us, your local Ardmore, OK pet hospital, anytime!

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