A so-called mystery illness affecting dogs has swept from Oregon eastward recently and may have sickened pets locally. But experts say there’s no need for panic or alarm and are urging common sense precautions.
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The cause of the canine infectious respiratory disease first reported a few months ago in Greater Portland and other areas of Oregon remains a mystery, according to the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) and American Veterinary Medical Association. More than 200 suspected cases have been reported there.
But there is no confirmation of the illness and no known cure.
Most Greater Columbus veterinary practices are familiar with the illness and are sending lab cultures of sick animals for testing, said Dr. Christen Fout, a veterinarian with the Veterinary Emergency Group in Dublin.
“We don’t want to call it an outbreak of something prematurely,” she said, noting that the problem is not a large number of stricken pets, but the severity of those that are.
“We don’t often see dogs come in so sick,” she said.
In the past six weeks Fout’s practice has taken in 2 to 3 otherwise healthy dogs with symptoms such as coughing that doesn’t stop. In each case, the pets declined rapidly and did not survive. Similar cases have been reported in Chicago.
At Parsons Animal Clinic, on the South Side, there have been no suspected cases yet, said Lexi Hallum, who oversees scheduling. “But we’re keeping our eyes peeled.”
Veterinarians said they are gathering and sharing data to determine an underlying cause.
Dr. Jay Gladden, an emergency and critical care specialist at MedVet Columbus, said while he’s seen an increase in respiratory illness typical of the cold-weather season, “they don’t fit the worrisome, atypical cases being reported in the Pacific Northwest.”
Mysterious disease symptoms
- Chronic mild to moderate inflammation of the trachea lasting six to eight weeks or longer, which is minimally or not responsive to antimicrobials.
- Chronic pneumonia that is minimally or not responsive to antimicrobials.
- Acute pneumonia that rapidly becomes severe and often leads to poor outcomes in as little as 24 to 36 hours.
Suspected cases should be reported to a veterinarian, Fout said. And precautions should be taken, especially around the holidays.
Fout said owners should make sure that their dogs have updated vaccines and avoid “nose-to-nose” contact with other dogs when boarding or at dog parks.
Most dog-gathering venues such as dog shows, training centers, and boarding facilities, require that dogs have certain vaccines.
- Dogs can be contagious and still look perfectly healthy.
- Keep your dog away from toys, food and water bowls used by dogs outside your household.
- Ask your veterinarian or check news or internet sources about where respiratory infections like canine influenza have been reported.
- Delay or avoid travel with your dog to places where outbreaks are occurring.
Fout is optimistic that like most animal illnesses, a cause and remedy will be found.
“I think we’ll get to the bottom of what it is soon,” she said.
The veterinary medicine association is urging vet practices to begin widespread sampling of potential respiratory cases. Data from samples will be paired with polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing, considered the “gold standard” for diagnosing COVID-19, according to the Cleveland Clinic.