Mysterious Dog Illness Spreads Across the US, Vets Warn

A potentially fatal respiratory illness in dogs has been reported in at least 15 states in the US, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). The cause of the disease is still unknown, but it does not respond well to standard treatments such as antibiotics. The first symptom is usually a cough that lasts for weeks or months, and in some cases, it can lead to pneumonia and death.

What are the symptoms of the mystery dog illness?

The AVMA says that the common symptoms of the respiratory illness in dogs include:

  • Chronic mild-moderate tracheobronchitis, a sudden or long-term inflammation of the trachea and bronchial airways, lasting 6-8 weeks that is barely or non responsive to antibiotics.
Mysterious Dog Illness Spreads Across the US, Vets Warn
Mysterious Dog Illness Spreads Across the US, Vets Warn
  • Chronic pneumonia not responsive to antibiotics.
  • Acute pneumonia that quickly turns severe sometimes in as little as 24-36 hours.
  • Difficulty or rapid breathing, wheezing, dehydration, fever, nasal or eye discharge, weight loss, loss of appetite and lethargy.

Which states are affected by the mystery dog illness?

The AVMA says that the illness has been reported in the following states as of December 6, 2023:

  • California
  • Colorado
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire
  • Oregon
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin

The number of cases in each state is not known, as most states are not formally tracking them. However, veterinarians and animal sanctuary owners have reported hundreds of cases since the summer, and some have resulted in fatalities.

How can dog owners protect their pets from the mystery dog illness?

The AVMA advises dog owners to work with their veterinarians if their dog is showing any signs of the illness, and to seek emergency care if their dog is having trouble breathing. The AVMA also recommends that dog owners keep their pets away from places where dogs tend to gather in groups, such as boarding facilities, groomers, dog parks, and dog shows, until the cause of the illness is identified and a vaccine or treatment is available.

The AVMA says that there is no evidence that the illness can be transmitted to humans or other animals, but it is still important to practice good hygiene and wash hands after handling sick dogs. The AVMA also urges dog owners to report any suspected cases of the illness to their state veterinarian or animal health official, and to participate in any testing or surveillance efforts that may help identify the cause of the disease.

What are the possible causes of the mystery dog illness?

The cause of the respiratory illness in dogs is still under investigation by various state and national diagnostic laboratories, as well as academic institutions and private companies. Some of the possible causes that have been ruled out include:

  • Canine influenza virus (CIV)
  • Canine distemper virus (CDV)
  • Canine adenovirus type 2 (CAV-2)
  • Canine herpesvirus (CHV)
  • Canine parainfluenza virus (CPIV)
  • Canine respiratory coronavirus (CRCoV)
  • Bordetella bronchiseptica
  • Mycoplasma spp.
  • Streptococcus zooepidemicus

Some of the possible causes that are still being tested for include:

  • A new or emerging virus or bacteria
  • A mutation or recombination of an existing virus or bacteria
  • A co-infection of multiple pathogens
  • An environmental or toxic factor
  • A genetic or immunological factor

The AVMA says that it is working closely with the affected states and other stakeholders to coordinate the investigation and share information. The AVMA also says that it will provide updates on the situation as they become available.

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