Since the summer of 2023, rumors have started about a mysterious respiratory disease affecting more and more dogs in the U.S.
The first reports of this “atypical canine infectious respiratory illness” appeared in Oregon.
“In August 2023, the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) received reports of an atypical canine infectious respiratory illness being seen in dogs in the Portland Metro and Willamette Valley areas over the summer. To date, ODA has received over 200 reports of atypical canine infectious respiratory disease from Oregon veterinarians,” the Oregon Veterinary Medical Association shared in a release about the illness.
Since then, the illness began to spread eastward, and many reports began to arrive from other parts of the country.
Accordingly, more and more veterinarians and experts in this field began to express their views of the overall situation.
Similar Reports Back In Summer 2022
Back in the summer of 2022, veterinarians in numerous states, such as New Hampshire, reported similar canine illnesses.
Although the news about them did not spread as quickly in the media as it did a year later, the situation had already began to deteriorate a little.
The owners brought their dogs that had symptoms similar to other canine respiratory diseases, such as kennel cough.
They didn’t seem to be responding to standard medical treatment, and were usually negative on syndromic canine respiratory disease PCR testing.
These results prompted researchers at the New Hampshire Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, part of the University of New Hampshire, to conduct further research.
New Hampshire Researchers Immediately Got To Work
After examining many cases of this dog illness, researchers from the New Hampshire Veterinary Diagnostic Lab (NHVDL) and Hubbard Center for Genomic Studies (HCGS), both located at the University of New Hampshire, concluded that canine respiratory pathogens were not identified.
Instead, a new type of bacterial infection could be the culprit behind this canine respiratory illness.
“It’s smaller than a normal bacterium in its size and in the size of its genome,” said Needle, pathology section chief at the University of New Hampshire College of Life Sciences and Agriculture in Durham, N.H. “Long story short, it’s a weird bacterium that can be tough to find and sequence.”
Precisely for this reason, there are no drugs that can directly combat this illness, but only those that can target certain symptoms.
What We Know So Far?
According to him, the symptoms of coughing, nasal and eye discharge, sneezing, lethargy, and disinterest in food are the most common when it comes to this illness.
“Similar to kennel cough, we’re getting coughing, but instead of a dry hacking like kennel cough, we’re seeing a more moist and wet cough,” he said.
It all starts with a cough, runny eyes, and sneezing that can last for weeks, but the problem is it can progress into pneumonia and, in rare cases, the worst scenario.
It can be explained by the indicators that the new bacterium is a culprit (as already mentioned), according to Dr. Karl Jandrey, a professor of clinical small animal emergency and critical care at the University of California-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, said in an interview with CBS.
“Smaller pathogens have an easier time making it down into the deep parts of the lungs, potentially causing pneumonia,” Jandrey said.
Based on what they know so far, and because of the potential worst-case scenario, researchers have been trying to grow the new bacteria in the lab, which is necessary to figure out which antibiotics will work best against it, but for now, this has been unsuccessful.
Can We Treat It In Any Way?
According to Dr. Karwacki, veterinarians are prescribing antibiotics for the dogs as precautionary. Unfortunately, it seems that they do not target the core problem.
Aside from that, they are sending them home with cough medications to help stop the coughing. They even sometimes prescribe pain medications to make them feel better.
When it comes to severe cases of illness, those dogs are being hospitalized, put into oxygen chambers, and given IV medications and fluids.
Dr. Karwacki notes that on the bright side, veterinarians are seeing more success caring for pets sick with this mystery illness, thanks to West Coast vets sharing what they have learned from treating cases.
“We have a heads-up of what medications to try first,” she says.
Should Owners Be Concerned?
According to the OVMA online report, people shouldn’t be panicking.
“The number of cases reported to ODA represents a very small percentage of Oregon’s dog population,” Dr. Stephen Kochis, the chief medical officer for the Oregon Humane Society, told the New York Times.
“We are not seeing an uptick in respiratory disease outside of the ordinary expectation for pets that would get respiratory disease,” he said.
However, it is always better to be safe than sorry, so they call for caution.
Some of the precautions you can take include:
• When you go to the dog park, bring another water bottle for your dog.
• Don’t let them use shared bowls or toys.
• If your dog comes down with symptoms, get them to your veterinarian and keep them away from other pets.
• Make sure all dogs are up to date on all their vaccines, including canine influenza, Bordetella, and parainfluenza.
• Avoid leaving your dog in the kennel when going on vacation because there is a larger risk that it will get ill.
This shall do the trick.