What to Know About the Fatal Dog Disease Spreading Across the U.S.
We don't often think about flu season affecting our pets, but dogs are susceptible to respiratory diseases just like people are. Dog coughs and colds have similar symptoms to those we experience, and most pass on their own without treatment.
Disturbingly, a new canine illness has emerged this season that's more similar to COVID-19 than a cold. Here's what every pet owner should know to lower their pet's risk of contracting the new disease.
The New Canine Respiratory Illness Is Already in Over a Dozen States
The first cases of the latest dog mystery illness appeared in Oregon in August 2023. The symptoms are similar to the canine version of influenza mixed with the symptoms of kennel cough. Kennel cough, a highly contagious respiratory illness, is similar to bronchitis, resulting in several weeks of coughing, sniffles, wheezing, and lack of energy. Vaccinations against the most common pathogens causing kennel cough are widely administered. Even if a dog does pick up kennel cough, most recover on their own without treatment.
The new mystery illness is much more serious, however. It starts out as an ordinary cough, but may spiral into a serious case of antibiotic-resistant pneumonia. Cases have been reported across the entire west coast and several other states. Like the 2020 pandemic, it's only a matter of time before it spreads to the rest of the country.
How Is It Spread?
Since the pathogen causing the new illness has yet to be identified, the precise means of transmission remains unknown. Most likely, it's spread through breathing the same air as an infected animal, particularly in close quarters and areas with limited ventilation. Sound familiar?
The outlook for pets who contract the ominous illness isn't as dire as may sound, fortunately. Thus far, all of the dogs who have died from it had preexisting health conditions. If a dog is young and otherwise healthy, their prognosis is promising.
Symptoms of the New Dog Disease to Look Out For
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, the mystery illness includes some or all of the following symptoms:
- Chronic mild-moderate tracheobronchitis – Inflammation of the airways resulting in a persistent cough that's unresponsive to antibiotics. Coughing may last up to eight weeks
- Chronic pneumonia
- Acute pneumonia that may become severe in under 36 hours of onset
- Labored or rapid breathing
- Loss of appetite and dehydration
- Watery eyes and/or nose
- Weight loss
Treatment Options Are Limited
So far, it appears that the mystery illness doesn't respond to antibiotics. "Curing" the illness isn't possible, so treatment is geared towards alleviating symptoms and improving the dog's odds of recovery.
A nebulizer may be prescribed, along with antibiotics for secondary infections. IV fluids and supplemental oxygen may also help.
How to Protect Your Pet
Although the details of the mystery illness are still emerging, reducing your pets risk is simple.
- Make sure they're up to date on all their vaccinations, particularly kennel cough.
- Hold off on trips to the dog park and pet store. Try to groom your dog at home, or consider hiring a mobile dog groomer that sanitizes equipment between clients.
- Don't board your dog unless completely necessary. If possible, hire a pet sitter instead.
- Contact your vet and isolate your dog if you notice any symptoms of respiratory illness.
Bottom line: Don't panic. Use common sense, stay on top of preventative care, and try to keep your pet away from highly trafficked areas in which pathogens spread more easily. If your dog does get sick, follow your vet's guidance, and look on the bright side– Unless they're already struggling with health issues, they'll probably recover without a hitch.