A mysterious respiratory illness affecting dogs has sparked concern in the US, but veterinarians are urging people not to panic.
Over the past few weeks, the mystery illness has spread around the country. Reports have suggested it is highly contagious and could potentially – in very rare cases – be fatal. Once infected, some otherwise healthy dogs have experienced lasting respiratory disease and pneumonia.
Veterinarians remain puzzled by the illness and its causes. However, they are reminding people that this is not necessarily an unusual problem or reason to panic.
“There are respiratory diseases outbreaks around the country every year, and it’s not something that we are necessarily surprised about,” Dr Brian Collins, a veterinarian, told the Guardian.
Dr. Stephen Kochis, the chief medical officer for the Oregon Humane Society, told the New York Times: “We are not seeing an uptick in respiratory disease outside of the ordinary expectation for pets that would get respiratory disease.”
Mystery dog illness not necessarily reason to panic
Cases of the mystery illness have so far been reported in states including Washington, Oregon, California, New Hampshire, Florida, and Pennsylvania.
The Oregon Department of Agriculture has called it an “atypical canine infectious respiratory disease.” In Oregon, the American Veterinary Medical Association has reported more than 200 cases since mid-August.
We don’t know the cause of the outbreak, or how widespread it is, and how many previously healthy dogs have become seriously ill or died.
Researchers at leading veterinary medicine schools have so far been unable to identify its causes. The US Department of Agriculture is now collaborating with local agencies to identify the disease.
What are the signs of the mystery illness?
The symptoms are similar in many of the suffering canines. These include coughing, sneezing, eye or nose discharge, lethargy, and, in severe cases, pneumonia.
Typically it seems the cough is the first symptom, first-hand testimony suggests. In some dogs, the cough has turned into pneumonia, leaving them struggling to breathe.
What can you do for your dog?
Experts are urging people in the US not to panic. Instead, it is important to ensure that dogs have up-to-date vaccinations.
Where possible, reducing contact with unknown and sick dogs could also help reduce the risk of infection, some have claimed, though Collins cautions against jumping to this stage too quickly. “Many dogs benefit from socializing with other dogs so we don’t want to advise against that unless there seems to be a problem in that particular geographic area,” he said. “If there are concerns, a smaller social group may be a good compromise.”