Labs in at least four states are studying a mysterious respiratory illness in dogs with symptoms similar to kennel cough, but such illnesses can last much longer and, in some cases, prove fatal, veterinarians say.
Infected dogs develop a cough, fever, lethargy, and intermittent loss of appetite. Veterinarians said the undetermined illness has led to hospitalizations and deaths of dogs that were older or had health problems.
Although there is no official tally of the number of infections, veterinarians said they have treated more dogs with these symptoms in recent months. Cases have been reported in at least four states: Colorado, Massachusetts, Oregon and Rhode Island, but experts suspect the disease is much more widespread.
Dr. Lindsey Ganzer, veterinarian and executive director of the North Springs Veterinary Referral Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., said she has treated about 35 dogs with the disease since late October.
Four dogs had to be euthanized or died. She said she has treated infected dogs of different breeds and ages. Some only had a cough and others had pneumonia, she said.
There was one thing they had in common, however: They spent time in places with high concentrations of dogs, like boarding houses, doggy daycares, or dog parks. Dr. Ganzer said she is concerned that veterinarians will see an increase in cases as more owners board their dogs or send them to daycare during the holidays.
“We really hope that by spreading the word, people will be less likely to do this,” she said. “The veterinary community as a whole is a little scared. »
Since mid-August, Oregon veterinarians have reported more than 200 cases, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.
Dr. Stephen Kochis, chief medical officer for the Oregon Human Society, said he doesn’t want people to panic because that number represents only a small number of all dogs in the state.
“We are not seeing an increase in respiratory illnesses outside of the usual expectations for pets susceptible to respiratory illness,” he said. He added that there are many treatable respiratory diseases.
Dogs with kennel cough, for example, may exhibit similar symptoms, such as coughing, lack of appetite, fever and lethargy, which usually resolve within one to three weeks. Owners should not be concerned if their dogs show symptoms of this emerging disease, but they should be proactive.
“We’ve all been through Covid,” he said. “I would say if your dog shows signs of respiratory illness, isolate him at home, call your vet, have him seen.”
Typically, dogs can recover from respiratory illness on their own or with the help of antibiotics, but that’s not always the case with the latter illness, said Dr. Kurt Williams, director of the Oregon Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at Carlson College of Veterinary Medicine. at Oregon State University.
“In these dogs, it either persisted longer or it spiraled downward and led to very serious consequences, including death,” he said.
Experts are unsure whether the illness is caused by bacteria or a virus. Some veterinarians in Oregon speculate that it could be viral because the dogs they treated did not respond to antibiotics.
“I’m open to it being one or the other, and I’m open to it being something we don’t even think about,” Dr. Williams said.
Dr. David Needle, senior veterinary pathologist at the University of New Hampshire’s New Hampshire Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, has been studying the disease for about a year.
Dr. Needle and colleagues at the university’s Hubbard Center for Genome Research hope to gain clarity after conducting tests to determine whether the disease-causing organism, based on samples from across the country, shares the same genetic makeup.
“Something big is happening,” he said. “It remains to be seen whether it’s the same thing or not.”