A mysterious, potentially deadly respiratory illness affecting dogs that cropped up first on the West Coast has now spread to Georgia and Florida, sparking concerns for local pet owners.
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As of Monday, the disease had been reported in 14 states and the cause of the mysterious illness remained under investigation, American Veterinary Medical Association President Rena Carlson told USA TODAY.
So far, there have been no cases of the disease in Tennessee reported to the association.
The University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine’s Emergency and Critical Care Service has seen and treated slightly more respiratory cases within the last few weeks to months, a spokesperson said in a press release, adding, “Fortunately, we are currently not seeing the rapid decline or severe clinical signs in dogs as reported in other states.”
What is the mystery dog illness?
Veterinarians describe the illness as a respiratory disease that can cause coughing, sneezing and lethargy. They say it can sometimes lead to pneumonia and does not respond to antibiotics.
Experts have yet to fully understand the disease and the cause behind it, said David Needle, senior veterinary pathologist at the University of New Hampshire’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory. Needle told USA Today that he and his colleagues at the University’s Hubbard Center for Genome Research have been studying the virus for more than a year.
What states have the mysterious respiratory dog disease been confirmed in?
As of Monday, the illness had been reported in California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.
In Oregon, veterinarians and animal sanctuary owners have reported more than 200 cases since mid-August. The remaining 13 states have not yet reported their respective numbers.
Local vets, such as Dr. Ricardo Kendrick of Asheville Highway Animal Hospital in Knoxville, have not seen any increase in respiratory disease over prior years.
“Just like in humans, this is usually the time of year when the most respiratory illness is prevalent,” Kendrick told Knox News.
What are the symptoms of the mysterious dog disease?
“The most common signs are sneezing, coughing and lethargy, as are seen with most upper respiratory diseases,” Kendrick said.
Here are some of the common symptoms of a respiratory illness in dogs:
- Coughing and sneezing
- Difficulty breathing
- Rapid breathing
- Wheezing or nasal whistling
- Difficulty exercising
- Nasal or eye discharge
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
What is the treatment for the illness?
The good news: The vast majority of dogs that get infectious respiratory tract disease have uneventful recoveries, says infectious disease expert Scott Weese.
Unlike more common infections associated with kennel cough, the University of Illinois School of Veterinary Medicine reported these new cases do not respond to “standard medical therapy and can have a prolonged illness that can progress to pneumonia.”
Treatment is aimed at mitigating clinical signs and can include oxygen therapy, antibiotics to treat secondary infection, and measures to ensure the dog has “adequate nutrition” and hydration (including the use of intravenous fluids).
Tips for dog owners on how to avoid the mystery respiratory illness
“I would suggest pet owners keep their dogs up-to-date on the kennel cough vaccine,” Kendrick said. “Any pets showing respiratory signs with lack of appetite and lethargy should be isolated from other pets and seen by their veterinarian as soon as possible.”
The UT veterinarians suggest following these tips to help prevent most respiratory illnesses:
- Limit pet contact with other dogs (such as more crowded environments like dog day care, kennels, dog parks, groomers, etc.) to decrease the risk of transmission of viruses and bacteria.
- Ensure your pet is up to date on all vaccines, including “core” respiratory vaccines. Additional vaccines may be considered by your veterinarian for at-risk dogs.
- Contact your veterinarian or visit an emergency clinic if your pet starts to exhibit worsening respiratory signs.
Liz Kellar is a Tennessee Connect reporter. Email [email protected]. Angela Dennis is the Knox News race, justice and equity reporter. Email [email protected]. Twitter @AngeladWrites. Instagram @angeladenniswrites. Facebook at Angela Dennis Journalist.
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