Labs in at least four states are investigating the mysterious respiratory disease in dogs, which presents symptoms similar to puppy cough but can last longer and, in some cases, be fatal, according to veterinarians.
Infected dogs develop coughing, fever, lethargy, and loss of appetite. Veterinarians said the undiagnosed disease has led to hospitalizations and deaths in older dogs or those with health problems.
Although there is no official count on the number of infections, veterinarians said they have treated more dogs with these symptoms in the past few months. Cases have been reported in four states: Colorado, Massachusetts, Oregon and Rhode Island, but experts suspect the disease is more widespread.
Dr. Lindsay Ganser, veterinarian and chief executive of the North Springs Veterinary Referral Center in Colorado Springs, said she has treated about 35 dogs with the disease since late October.
Four dogs must be euthanized or die. He said he treated infected dogs of many breeds and ages. Some had only a cough, while others had pneumonia, he said.
However, they had one thing in common: They spent time in places with high concentrations of dogs, such as boarding facilities, doggy day care or dog parks. Dr. Ganser said he fears vets will see an increase in cases as more owners board their dogs or send them to day care during the holidays.
“We really hope by getting the word out that people don’t want to do it,” he said. “The veterinary community as a whole is kind of scared.”
Since mid-August, veterinarians in Oregon have reported more than 200 cases. American Veterinary Medical Association.
Dr. Stephen Kochis, chief medical officer for the Oregon Humane Society, said people don’t want to panic because the number is the smallest of all dogs in the state.
“We didn’t see an increase in respiratory illnesses outside of the normal expectation for pets that get respiratory illnesses,” he said. He added that there are many respiratory diseases that can be treated.
For example, dogs with kennel cough may show signs of coughing, loss of appetite, fever, and lethargy, which usually resolve within one to three weeks. Owners should not worry if dogs show signs of this developing 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 them at home, call your vet and get them checked out.”
Usually, dogs can recover from respiratory illness on their own or with the help of antibiotics, but this latest illness isn’t always the case, 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 lasted longer or it took a downward spiral and led to more serious outcomes, including death,” he said.
Experts don’t know whether the disease is caused by bacteria or a virus. Some vets in Oregon think it may be viral because dogs they’ve treated haven’t responded to antibiotics.
“I’m open to it being there, and I’m open to it being something we haven’t even imagined,” Dr Williams said.
A senior veterinary pathologist at the University of New Hampshire’s New Hampshire Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, Dr. David Needle has been researching the disease for about a year.
At the university’s Hubbard Center for Genetic Research, Dr. Needle and his colleagues hope to gain clarity after conducting tests based on samples from across the country to determine whether disease-causing organisms share the same genetic makeup.
“Something significant is happening,” he said. “Whether it’s the same or not is yet to be seen.”