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Facts About the New Mysterious Dog Disease: What Urbana, IL Dog Owners Should Know

December 15 2023

Have you seen recent news coverage about a puzzling new respiratory illness that is impacting our canine companions? This is definitely something for dog owners to be aware of. Official warnings have been issued by multiple organizations, including the agricultural departments of Colorado and Oregon, as well as the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). A Urbana, IL vet provides insights on this topic in the following piece.

What Is The Mystery Canine Respiratory Illness?

That is the ten million dollar question, at least for now. The illness has not yet been positively identified. There are a lot of possibilities … and a lot of questions. For instance, we don’t yet know for certain if this is an entirely new disease or a new strain of something familiar.

Here’s what we do know: the disease is similar to kennel cough. As mentioned above, the term kennel cough can be used to describe a number of respiratory illnesses in dogs. Therefore, kennel cough can be caused by either bacteria or viruses, and can be mild or life-threatening.

The major difference between kennel cough and the mystery illness is that kennel cough usually resolves with proper treatment. The new illness, however, does not always respond to the usual treatments.

The canine respiratory illness is definitely a cause for concern due to its severity. Affected dogs can become extremely ill very quickly. While many dogs recover with proper treatment, that unfortunately isn’t always the case. Some of the infected dogs required surgical intervention, while others needed to be put on ventilators. Sadly, several dogs—even young and healthy ones— have succumbed to the illness, with some declining very quickly. 

What Dogs Are Most At Risk?

Unfortunately, all of our canine companions are at risk. However, there are things that would elevate Fido’s risk of contagion. Close contact with other dogs is of course the biggest factor. Other dogs that are at heightened risk include pooches with weakened immune systems, elderly dogs, puppies that have not yet gotten  all of their initial vaccines, and brachycephalic pups, like French bulldogs and pugs. 

What Causes The Canine Respiratory Illness?

Researchers are still looking for a culprit. A pathogen has been identified by researchers at the University of New Hampshire’s Veterinary Diagnosis Laboratory and Hubbard Center for Genome Studies. While there is more information needed, 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. This was based on studies of genetic samples of 70 dogs, all of whom were from New England.

Mysterious Dog Illness Outbreaks: Where Are They Happening?

Cases of the unknown disease have been reported in several states, including California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. There are over 200 cases in Oregon alone, dating back to the beginning of August. It’s also made it past the border into Canada. 

Is It Possible For Humans To Catch The Mysterious Dog Disease?

There is some good news: the risk of human contamination is very low, according to research conducted by the American Veterinary Medical Association and other organizations. The illness fortunately doesn’t seem to be spreading to other pets, either. However, we would still recommend washing your hands thoroughly after handling or petting your furry buddy, just as a precaution and to help reduce spread.

Is the Mystery Respiratory Illness Very Widespread?

We’re not sure. Getting exact numbers is challenging now: most states aren’t officially tracking the outbreak, and many cases have been reported based on symptoms. It’s also worth noting that canine respiratory problems are often grouped under the umbrella term kennel cough, which includes several other respiratory problems, such as Bordetella and canine parainfluenza.

Another issue here is the fact that testing for specific pathogens may produce some false negative results, which can skew the numbers. There’s sometimes a window between the time when a pooch contracts a disease and the point where they become sick enough to require veterinary care. So, Fido could potentially be infected and spreading the disease while still asymptomatic.

As of yet, there is no definitive test for the new canine respiratory illness. However, one key indicator is the fact that the dogs that were diagnosed with it tested negative for more common canine respiratory illnesses. They also often have difficulty recovering. Usually, when a pooch gets a cough, it lasts about a week or so. However, this particular cough persists, and just won’t go away on its own.

What Are the Best Ways For Me To Protect My Pup From Mystery Illnesses?

Right now, there is no foolproof way to keep Fido from contracting the respiratory illness, and there likely won’t be until  a vaccine is developed. However, there are things you can do to lower your canine friend’s risk of catching the disease.

Make sure that your four-legged buddy is fully vaccinated against key diseases. In addition to the core vaccines, we’d also recommend the Bordetella vaccine. This is usually required for puppies who will be in contact with other dogs, whether at daycare, boarding facilities, parks, and even playdates. Ask your Urbana, IL veterinarian for more information.

What Are The Warning Signs Of The Mystery Disease?

The signs in this case are much like those of other canine respiratory issues. Coughing is the most common one. That cough starts out mildly, but may sometimes accelerate quickly. In some cases, dogs got very, very sick after only 24 to 48 hours. The cough may also last for weeks, and may develop into pneumonia.

Rapid, labored breathing is another warning sign. Other red flags include discharge from the eyes and nose, dehydration, fever, wheezing, loss of appetite, and weight loss. Your furry friend may also seem very tired, and may spend most of his time snoozing in his doggy bed rather than wanting to play or cuddle. 

Contact your Urbana, IL vet immediately if you notice any of these symptoms. If your pet is sick enough to require emergency care, give them a heads up before bringing Fido in, so they can take steps to reduce the possibility of contagion to other furry patients.

How Does The Mystery Canine Illness Spread?

The disease seems to be airborne, as many dogs are getting sick after breathing the same air as infected pups. It could also spread through direct contact, such as friendly ‘snoot boops’ with other dogs, or by sharing bowls, toys, and bedding. 

To err on the side of caution, one may want to consider all doggie gatherings as potential infection hotspots. The most dangerous places are likely to be groomers’ salons, kennels, dog parks, and doggy daycares. That doesn’t mean you have to quarantine your pooch: just make informed choices about letting him interact with other dogs. Many places are taking extra measures to disinfect shared items and areas. Ask your Urbana, IL veterinarian for more information.

Conclusion: The new canine respiratory disease is quite dangerous, particularly to pups with respiratory issues and/or compromised immune systems. While there’s no need for panic, it’s important to stay informed. Keep an eye out for the warning signs, which include coughing, fatigue, weakness, reduced appetite, and nasal discharge. Contact your veterinary clinic immediately if you notice anything amiss.

Please feel free to contact us, your local Urbana, IL pet hospital, anytime, or if you have questions about your canine companion’s health or care. We are dedicated to providing top notch veterinary care to all of our furry patients.

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