DENVER — It’s been about a month since I first started to notice my heeler mix, Ernie, getting sick. It started with some sneezing and dry coughing, which were easy to write off.
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About a week in, the cough started to become wetter — almost hacking. Then, my normally rambunctious herding dog became lethargic and stopped eating. That’s when I knew something was wrong, and it rose to the level that he needed to see his vet right away.
In the time since Ernie was diagnosed with the newly emerging mystery respiratory illness that’s infecting dogs across the country, the issue has — pardon the pun — gone viral.
The illness has received national attention, with local and national media outlets reporting on pet parents blindsided by their otherwise healthy dogs becoming very sick. Some have even died from the disease.
Colo. veterinarians warn of rampant respiratory infections, pneumonia among dogs
8:50 PM, Nov 09, 2023
I followed up on the original story, after hearing from pet parents and veterinarians alike. Many vets are adopting new prevention measures in their clinics as they work to learn about this illness.
Evolution Veterinary Specialists in Lakewood has seen a steady influx of incoming cases, with an average of five per week requiring extensive care and hospitalization.
“Some of our patients come in with a fever of 105 or 106 degrees Fahrenheit,” said Dr. Nicole Trenholme, EVS medical director. “They are really struggling to breathe. Their tongues turn kind of purple because they’re not getting enough oxygen… and some of them are so bad off that we’ve even had them die from the disease.”
Experts still don’t know whether this disease is caused by a bacteria, virus or some other pathogen, but antibiotics have been prescribed to many dogs that have developed pneumonia. It does appear to be very contagious, which is why veterinarians are suggesting pet parents keep their dogs away from highly social settings like dog parks and daycares for the time being.
EVS has flown in a respiratory specialist for the week to help with the cases they’re seeing. They also have adopted preventative measures now being seen at many animal hospitals, like more protective gear, deep cleaning of rooms after exams, and isolation units for known cases.
Experts fear it will be some time before we are able to identify this new pathogen and learn how to best fight it. For now, they’re pleading with pet parents to keep an especially close eye on their dogs.
“Dogs — they want to be happy to be around us, right? Like they are so better than we are as humans, and they try to hide being ill as long as they can,” Trenholme said. “And so, it’s something that unfortunately winds up meaning that we often see the disease when it’s a little bit more progressed, because they just want to be happy to see us. They don’t want to let us know they feel poorly.”
As for my dog Ernie, after two weeks of antibiotics, he seems to have turned the corner. He still coughs from time to time, but his energy and appetite are back. I’m thankful to say, he seems to be a success story in this scary new trend.
Veterinary hospitals adopt new measures as mystery dog respiratory illness spreads