Verity, a rescued black Labrador puppy, was in Colorado for eight days when her new foster family realized she was sick.
Rocky Mountain Lab Rescue board member Jo Schroeder heard from Verity’s foster family on Aug. 10, just a day after welcoming the eight-week-old puppy.
Verity looked thinner and was less active, her foster family said. His symptoms quickly worsened: wide eyes, fever, refusal to eat, coughing and rapid breathing. Schroeder and the foster family took Verity to the vet, but they couldn’t figure out what the puppy had gotten and referred the group to emergency services.
Verity was hospitalized for three days as veterinary staff tried to treat her symptoms and await test results, but her condition continued to worsen.
“She was just too small to fight it off, she didn’t even have an immune system yet,” Schroeder said. “She was hospitalized from August 11 to 14, and the doctor said she couldn’t fight it anymore and we had to put her on bed rest.”
Illness with similar symptoms has been officially reported in at least four states: Colorado, Massachusetts, Oregon and Rhode Island. The first alarm bells were raised in August, when the Oregon Department of Agriculture began receiving reports of an “atypical canine infectious respiratory disease” circulating in the Portland and Portland metropolitan areas. Willamette Valley.
Maggie Baldwin, state veterinarian with the Colorado Department of Agriculture, said it was too early to tell if it was a new disease.
“We don’t know exactly what we’re seeing, and we don’t know if it’s something new,” she said.
It’s not uncommon to see outbreaks of respiratory illnesses in dogs, Baldwin said.
What’s different about this disease is the number of dogs affected — Baldwin estimates that’s double the number the state would normally see in an outbreak, although the department doesn’t keep a tally official – and how long it lasts.
A typical respiratory illness can make a dog sick for a week or 10 days and it will respond to treatment, Baldwin said. But with this disease, dogs get sick for weeks or months, and standard treatments don’t help.
Dogs develop symptoms that include a cough that does not improve on its own after about a week; sneezing; runny nose and eyes; lethargy; fatigue; difficulty breathing or rapid breathing; and blue or purple erasers.
Experts don’t yet know whether the illness is viral or bacterial, but in a Nov. 16 news release, veterinarians at Colorado State University said the infection was linked to cases of severe pneumonia and had led to some deaths.
Clinical findings and testing conducted so far suggest that this mysterious illness is a virus targeting the respiratory system of dogs, leading to secondary bacterial infection and pneumonia, according to CSU officials.
Colorado is working with CSU and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to collect advanced diagnostic data on the disease, which will help determine whether it is a new disease or something already known, Baldwin said .
Lindsey Ganzer, veterinarian and CEO of North Springs Veterinary Referral Center in Colorado Springs, said the hospital has seen about 35 cases since late October.
“My main concern is that all of these cases that we’ve seen have the commonality of having been in a doggie daycare, boarding facility or somewhere where there are a lot of dogs in a small area,” Ganzer said.
“However, it’s spreading in these close contact areas, the holidays are coming up and a lot of owners are going to be guarding their pets, and I think we’re going to see an increase in these cases,” she said.
For Rachael Noff, a homeowner in Parker, fear of illness means changing times and places she and her “fur baby” regularly go.
While Noff used to visit the dog park and play Frisbee with his dog at least four times a week, they now use an open field behind a nearby building to release their energy.
“The other problem is that we don’t know how this mysterious disease can spread,” she said. “What if dogs just get it by stepping in another dog’s urine or sniffing their poop? It’s quite scary.
Other Colorado residents said on social media that they had stopped providing communal dog water to their neighborhood pets and had canceled stays at doggie daycares or trips altogether to avoid d to accommodate their dog in a new place.
On Saturday, Sniff Shack — a dog daycare, boarding and bathing service in Denver — was one of several businesses to send an email to its customers warning them of the potentially deadly illness.
“We are deeply concerned about this illness, but we know that the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday is one of the main weeks when you count on us to care for your dogs as you travel to be with friends and family,” a writes the Sniff Shack in the email. “We want to keep all of our beloved Sniffers healthy and we will take the following proactive steps to help minimize potential exposure to this disease.”
The Shack canceled daycare from November 20-26 to reduce the number of dogs in boarder-only homes, eliminated shared water bowls in playrooms, and implemented additional cleaning and disinfecting measures.
Baldwin said people should be careful but not panic about the disease.
Owners should ensure their dogs are up to date on their vaccinations, including for common respiratory illnesses. If a dog becomes ill, owners should contact their veterinarian as soon as possible to determine the best way to move forward, Baldwin said.
Ganzer said she advises people to avoid areas common to dogs, like boarding and daycare centers.
“If owners are going on vacation out of town, try to find someone to come to your home to care for your pets rather than going to a boarding facility,” she said.