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Veterinarians are working to figure out the cause behind a cluster of respiratory illnesses in dogs across the U.S. Over 200 suspected cases have been documented since late summer, mostly from Oregon. The illness appears to have a low fatality rate, but dogs have experienced prolonged symptoms and haven’t responded well to antibiotics.
The Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) seems to be the first major party to have caught wind of the mystery canine ailment. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, the department has received more than 200 reports of an unexplained respiratory illness from local veterinarians since mid-August. Veterinarians and testing labs in Colorado, Massachusetts, Oregon, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire have reported similar cases, possibly dating back to last year.
These illnesses don’t appear to be caused by any of the common respiratory germs tested for by vets. A few dogs have tested positive for the bacteria Mycoplasma cynos, which can sometimes cause kennel cough, but the ODA has ruled it out as the primary culprit behind these cases.
Sickened dogs tend to fall into one of three categories: dogs experiencing chronic inflammation of the trachea and bronchi (six to eight weeks or longer) that isn’t responsive to antibiotics; dogs experiencing chronic pneumonia (lung inflammation) that isn’t responsive to antibiotics; and dogs with acute pneumonia that rapidly worsens in as little as a day’s time. Given the lack of success with antibiotics, the most likely suspect for the illness is some kind of virus, the ODA has said.
Several dogs have been hospitalized or died as a result of the illness, but it doesn’t seem to have caused a large uptick in canine deaths. Vets are recommending that dog owners stay alert but not panic. “We suggest caution rather than worry,” the ODA said in its latest update about the situation.
Owners should make sure that their pups are up-to-date with all their vaccinations, some of which help prevent respiratory illness, for instance. They should also try to minimize the time that their dogs spend around large gatherings of other unknown dogs and avoid using communal water bowls. Dogs who develop symptoms like coughing, sneezing, nasal and/or eye discharge, and lethargy should be kept at home and receive veterinary care if possible.
The ODA is working with emergency veterinary centers in the area and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Veterinary Services Laboratory to better track and ultimately identify the cause of this mysterious cluster.