Mystery Respiratory Illness Prompts Calls for Dog Isolation

A mysterious and potentially lethal respiratory illness affecting dogs has been reported in various states, including Oregon, Indiana, Illinois, Washington, Idaho, California, Nevada, and the Northeast. Veterinarians are actively investigating the cause of the illness, marked by a persistent cough resistant to traditional antibiotic treatments.

Dogs with the illness reportedly progress quickly from a persistent cough to developing pneumonia. Symptoms include fever, lethargy, a wet and hacking cough, sneezing, eye or nose discharge, fatigue, blue or purple gums from oxygen deprivation, trouble breathing, and negative tests for common respiratory illnesses.

Since mid-August, the Oregon Department of Agriculture has received over 200 reports of the unidentified condition. Veterinary hospitals are sending samples to a New Hampshire research lab that has been studying the illness since 2022.

The American Veterinary Medical Association is monitoring cases in other states, though the national prevalence remains unclear.

Close contact with other dogs in places like daycare, groomers, boarding kennels, and dog parks increases the likelihood of dogs contracting the illness. Typically, cases of contagious coughing conditions in dogs decrease in the fall, but this year has seen a sustained spike.

Researchers, led by Kurt Williams of the Oregon Veterinary Diagnostics Lab, are actively investigating potential causes. While speculation leans towards a viral origin due to its presentation and apparent infectious spread, a definitive cause remains elusive.

To mitigate the risk, dog owners are advised to ensure their pets are up-to-date on vaccines, including those for canine influenza, Bordetella, and parainfluenza. Health checks are recommended 12 to 24 hours before attending events with other dogs. Additionally, consulting with veterinarians for specific advice before attending events with congregated dogs is encouraged. Recommendations also include avoiding boarding pets over the holidays and minimizing contact with unfamiliar dogs.

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