Reports of a mystery dog illness, which presents itself like a respiratory sickness, have left dog owners throughout the U.S. concerned.
According to an updated November release by the Oregon Veterinary Medical Association, they have received more than 200 reports of "atypical canine infectious respiratory disease" from Oregon veterinarians.However, the New Hampshire Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, said they have been investigating this mystery illness since as early as the summer and autumn of 2022.
New Hampshire's lab said they began analyzing respiratory specimens from New Hampshire cases, but they have also been testing samples from a handful of other states including Oregon and Colorado.We spoke to Arizona officials to ask them about the mystery illnesses present in the state and ask them how dog owners can keep pets safe.
When did this illness arise?
Dr. Melissa Thompson is the vice president of animal welfare and medical services at the Arizona Humane Society. She said the illness is not new, it is just receiving more media attention.
"It is new because it is very publicized now, but the first cases were actually noticed back in August of 2022 back in New Hampshire," Thompson said.
What does the illness look like?
New Hampshire labs have found through their preliminary research that the illness may be a bacterial infection and not a virus, Thompson pointed out.
"People assume it is a virus but the work that they have been doing on it, it seems that it is a bacterium."
Thompson said that most respiratory diseases dogs contract present very similarly. She compared it to humans having a runny nose and sneezing. It could be a cold, it could be the flu, COVID or a multitude of other things. Just as these diseases have similar clinical signs in humans, respiratory diseases in dogs present similarly.
She listed the following signs to look out for in your dog.
● Loss of appetite
● Labored breathing
● Nasal discharge If your pet is presenting any of these symptoms, Thompson recommends contacting your local vet.
How serious is this illness?
Brian Serbin, a doctor of veterinary medicine at the Ingleside Animal Hospital in Phoenix, said the dogs who are diagnosed typically have a chronic cough of 6-8 weeks, and some of the dogs have pneumonia. The antibiotics they typically prescribe to dogs who have respiratory diseases usually do not work on this illness, Serbin said, but that does not mean the illness is not treatable. "From my understanding, there have been dogs that have died from this," Serbin said. "But I think more dogs have recovered or survived," Thompson said not to panic at this point in time. "The dogs that have been getting sick, they are actually noting, they seem to be a little sicker than what we see with a general kennel cough or cold," Thompson said. "They tend to be more lethargic, they tend to develop pneumonia more, than we see with our typical canine cough or cold."
How will dogs with this illness be treated?
Serbin said the way to diagnose this illness is usually to rule out the other respiratory illnesses that they currently have tests for. This includes viruses, bacteria and fungal infections such as Valley fever. Serbin said he is going to stock an antibiotic called Chloramphenicol, should any cases come to Arizona. "I read a report the other day of a dog responding to Chloramphenicol," Servin said. "It is an older antibiotic that has been around for some time. It is not used that much because it is not used in human medicine, but we use it in the veterinary field." Thompson said care will depend on how sick the pet is when they come to the vet, but the following methods may be completed for treatment depending on the type of care the pet needs.
● An X-ray of the chest
● IV or fluids
Are there any cases in Arizona?
Thompson said there were two dogs in Arizona back in October who were suspected to have this illness, as they had previously traveled to a dog show in Oregon before they traveled back to Arizona and showed symptoms. Thompson said there have been no more reported Arizona cases at this time, but it is important to remember that this illness has been circulating since 2022 and it may have come and gone through Arizona already. Serbin said he himself has not been made aware of any cases in Arizona yet.
How can I keep my dog safe?
Serbin said the main thing to do is to avoid exposure to other dogs, especially in places such as doggy day cares and boarding places where you do not know the other dogs. He said the isolation time for a dog who has been diagnosed with an illness is 28 days and the isolation time for a dog showing symptoms is 14 days. Thompson said it is important for pet owners to get their pets out and have them exercise, but to be cautious while doing so. She gave the following tips for keeping your dog safe.
● Keep them up to date on any current vaccines.
● Extra protection for dogs with weaker immune systems.
● Do not let your dog share water with other dogs.
● Stay away from sick dogs.
● If your dog is sick then keep your dog home.
● If you are worried about your pet, do not let them interact with dogs you do not know on walks.
Serbin stressed that this illness only affects dogs, as far as they are aware. "It does not affect other animals and it does not affect people," Serbin said. "There is no concern for the public, meaning I am not worried about me coming down with a respiratory tract issue because of this and I am not worried about other types of animals like cats and birds and horses and cattle ... there is no concerns this will affect them in any way as far as we know."
Arizona Republic USA TODAY NETWORK