The mysterious trend of dogs coming down with a severe respiratory illness appears to have entered Montana as of Friday. State Veterinarian Tahnee Szymanski told the Missoulian Friday morning she’s received several reports out of Gallatin County consistent with the disease occurring in other states.
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“There’s some evidence that maybe we have something similar,” she said, “and increased respiratory illness in a few communities.”
The unidentified respiratory illness — or illnesses — has severely sickened dogs across the country and led to pneumonia and death in some cases. At this time, there is no known cause or treatment for the elusive sickness and therefore no way to test and confirm its presence in any given area.
Szymanski stressed not to panic over the emergence of canine respiratory cases in Montana. But she said dog owners could take precautions such as avoiding contact with other dogs. As in cases reported elsewhere, some of the dogs displaying symptoms in the Bozeman area have travel histories that indicate the potential for exposure.
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The illness or set of illnesses currently plaguing pups around the country displays as a usual respiratory infection, with runny noses and eyes, coughing, lethargy and decreased appetite. However, many dogs who have been treated with antibiotics have not responded to the treatment.
Missoula-area vets earlier this week said they hadn’t seen increased respiratory infections locally, and they too urged caution and patience.
Veterinarian Sam Mitchell at the Humane Society of Western Montana encouraged pet owners to make sure their dogs are up to date on vaccinations. She also suggested getting in touch with congregate facilities like kennels to check if any of their dogs have been sick recently.
She added that dog parks could be a risk for contagion as well, but it’s simply too early to know exactly what is being spread and how it’s spreading.
“It’s really tricky,” she stressed. “It’s hard at this point to say who is vulnerable.”
Veterinarian Caroline Buisson at Sentinel Veterinary Specialists and Emergency said dogs with other health issues could be more susceptible to the respiratory trend.
“I think all veterinarians are keeping an eye on this,” she said. “We’re watching it closely just like we would with any new infectious disease.”
But while Sentinel is open 24/7 for emergency cases, Buisson advised pet owners to get in touch with their primary veterinarians as the first line of response to a potential respiratory issue.