Dogs in several states are coming down with a mysterious respiratory illness

Update by CB: some dogs with this illness have been improving when treated with human inhalers. More on that here.

A PSA for fellow dog parents out there: there is a mysterious respiratory illness sweeping the canine community. Cases in Colorado, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Oregon, and Rhode Island have led to a multi-state outreach among veterinarians to set up studies and share research. The as-yet-unnamed disease can have symptoms including but not limited to coughing, sneezing, nasal or eye discharge, and lethargy. Some cases are resistant to antibiotics, and there is also no standard for testing yet. Vets and researchers recommend keeping your pup up-to-date on all vaccines, and limiting contact with other dogs. More from AP News:

Veterinary laboratories in several states are investigating an unusual respiratory illness in dogs, and encouraging people to take basic precautions to keep their pets healthy as veterinarians try to pin down what’s making the animals sick.

Oregon, Colorado and New Hampshire are among the states that have seen cases of the illness, which has caused lasting respiratory disease and pneumonia and does not respond to antibiotics. Symptoms of respiratory illness in dogs include coughing, sneezing, nasal or eye discharge and lethargy. Some cases of the pneumonia progress quickly, making dogs very sick within 24 to 36 hours.

The Oregon Department of Agriculture has documented more than 200 cases of the disease since mid-August. It has encouraged pet owners to contact their vet if their dog is sick and told state veterinarians to report cases as soon as possible. The agency is working with state researchers and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Veterinary Services Laboratory to find out what is causing the illnesses.

Dogs have died, said Kurt Williams, director of the Oregon Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at Oregon State University. But without a clear way to define the disease or test for it, he said it’s hard to put a number on how many died from a severe form of the infection.

Williams had a simple message for dog owners: “Don’t panic.” He also said dog owners should make sure that their pets are up to date on vaccines, including those that protect against various respiratory illnesses.

Labs across the country have been sharing their findings as they try to pinpoint the culprit.

David Needle, senior veterinary pathologist at the University of New Hampshire’s New Hampshire Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, has been investigating the mysterious disease for almost a year.

His lab and colleagues at the university’s Hubbard Center for Genome Research have looked at samples from dogs in Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Massachusetts and more will be coming from Oregon, Colorado and possibly other states.

He said his team has not seen a large increase in dogs dying from the illness but still encourage pet owners to “decrease contact with other dogs.”

[From AP News]

So. It’s a mysterious illness. Vets don’t know yet what causes it, what treats it, or what its long-term effects are (aside from the worst outcome, death). And what does expert Kurt Williams have to say? “Dogs have died” and “don’t panic.” Not helping, Mr. Williams! CB says she had to stop taking her pooch to the dog park altogether because he was getting sick so often. Lucky for me (I guess) that My Girl, who’s eleven and three-quarters now, greets every young pup on the street who wants to play, with the same disaffected attitude of “What the f— am I supposed to do with this idiot?” Needless to say, we haven’t been to a dog park in a long, long time. But we have been to the vet and are up-to-date on all our vaccines. Science and isolation — My Girl and I can handle those directives.

Photos credit: Dominika Roseclay on Pexels, JC Gellidon, Matthew Henry and Bruno Cervera Azsk on Unsplash

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18 Responses to “Dogs in several states are coming down with a mysterious respiratory illness”

  1. seaflower says:

    The Asher House in Oregon had a number of dogs pass away from this. They covered it on their youtube channel.

  2. Roo says:

    Thank you for posting this article. I’m glad that the vets and researchers are sharing information. It feels like the beginnings of Covid – mysterious illness, respiratory infections, not much information – for dogs.

    We will keep to ourselves. Luckily, our pups have each other for company.

    • StellainNH says:

      There was some kind of respiratory illness a year or so ago in New Hampshire. We were going on vacation and did a mad scramble to get our three little dogs boarded somewhere. We finally got some family to take them.

      I wonder if it is a variant of that illness.

  3. Brassy Rebel says:

    It does sound like the doggie version of COVID. And when you’re telling people that a mysterious illness is killing dogs, “don’t panic” is super unhelpful.

    • Elaine says:

      There’s also the possibility that the dogs have previously had covid and it’s weakened their immune system.

      Either way, very sad and I hope every CBer is able to keep their pup safe.

  4. ML says:

    Thanks for the info! I’ve passed it on to my US dog/s-in-the-family friends, and even though I haven’t heard any of this in Europe, I’m letting people I know here with dogs know about what’s going on in the US.
    We lost way too many wild and domestic/ agricultural birds due to avian flu this past year. So my mind jumped more to bird flu than Covid. I hope everyone is able to keep their fur babies safe and healthy!

    • Dara says:

      That’s where my mind went too. The bird flu has already jumped to wild mammals (sea lions, who are being decimated), so it’s not a big stretch to imagine a mutation that affects canines.

  5. TS says:

    Well, I think my dog will not be attending daycare in the near future. I don’t live in one of the states affected, but I’m sure it will spread like the flu.

  6. itscovid says:

    It’s not a mysterious respiratory illness it is covid. Humans can transmit covid to dogs and covid cases are surging in the U.S. (no it’s not some other thing going around it’s not the flu it’s covid) and dogs haven’t been vaxxed against covid so there will be more severe outcomes for them. I’m so sick of people pretending the pandemic is over.

  7. Colleen says:

    We go out of town every January for a week and usually board our dogs at a really lovely kennel – acres of land, pools, lots of play time. Not this year. We are looking for a dog sitter to stay in our home. We can’t risk it with this new illness. It is scary!

  8. Fancyhat13 says:

    I am having surgery in a couple of weeks and have to board my dog for 10 days. I’m so worried he will pick up that illness.

  9. QuiteContrary says:

    This freaks me out. Keeping a close eye on my doggo.

    Don’t hesitate to call your vet at the first signs of illness in your pup.

  10. Gwendolyn says:

    Asked our vet about this last week after it was on the local news, and she advised we don’t let our dogs interact with other dogs or even go to places frequented by dogs. They are seeing dogs that just take walks in Wash Park, which isn’t a dog park, that have had limited exposure to other dogs, but a lot dogs walk there. Also the dogs at doggie day care that have vaccinated for kennel cough & influenza are getting it.

    My vet is like super level headed and not a scare monger, so when she said not to take the girls to places frequented by dogs, a trip to the Three Dog Bakery fell off their to do list this week and all walkies are through the neighborhood and no heavily frequented parks.

  11. Elizabeth says:

    This is interesting! We live in Texas, and our dog has had this unstoppable reverse sneeze going on for 4 days now. By “unstoppable” I mean that we try all the tried and true remedies and nothing makes it permanently go away. She’ll eventually stop after we’ve held her for a while to calm down, but then it starts back up at random. Allergy meds haven’t helped either. I surely hope she doesn’t have whatever this is. Keep your pups safe, y’all.

  12. J.Ferber says:

    I love the daschund’s header photo. Such an intense look! Adorable.

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