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The Unknown Canine Respiratory Disease: Key Facts For Clarkesville, GA Dog Owners

December 15, 2023

If you’ve been watching the news lately, you may have seen stories and reports about a mysterious illness that is affecting dogs across the country. It’s been covered on several major news sites, such as the New York Times, Reuters, and NPR, as well as smaller sources. This is definitely something for Clarkesville, GA pet owners to be aware of. Cases have been reported in at least 14 states, with several more suspected cases in other areas. While most pups recover, unfortunately, several dogs have succumbed to the disease. Official warnings have been issued by several groups, including both Colorado and Oregon’s departments of agriculture and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). A local Clarkesville, GA vet offers some information on this issue in this article.

Where Are The Mysterious Dog Illness Outbreaks?

At least 16 states have reported outbreaks—or suspected outbreaks—of the unknown disease, with suspected outbreaks likely in other areas. The official list includes California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. Oregon alone has had over 200 cases, going back to the beginning of August.

However, these numbers may not be precise. Most states are not formally tracking the outbreak. Additionally, because there is no official test, many of the cases have been reported based on symptoms. That can be tricky, because several other canine respiratory issues, such as Bordetella and canine parainfluenza may have similar effects. Canine respiratory issues are sometimes grouped under the umbrella term ‘kennel cough’, for this reason.

Another issue that is muddling the numbers a bit is the fact that there may be some false negatives in testing for specific pathogens. This is because there is a window of time when Fido may be actively shedding virus but is not yet showing severe symptoms.  

Can Humans Get The Mystery Dog Disease?

The risk of human contagion seems very low, according to research done by the American Veterinary Medical Association and other organizations. Fortunately, the illness does not appear to be sickening other pets. That said, it’s always best to err on the side of caution. Therefore, we would still recommend washing your hands thoroughly after petting or handling Fido.

How Do I Protect My Pet From Mystery Illness?

Right now, there is no foolproof way to ensure that your canine companion won’t contract the respiratory illness, especially if he comes into contact with other dogs. However, there are things you can do to lower the risk.

First and foremost? Make sure your furry buddy is current on all key vaccines. It’s worth noting that the Bordetella vaccine is considered a non-core vaccine, but is also highly recommended. It’s also often required for pups that are going to be in contact with other dogs, whether at daycare, kennel, or groomers. Ask your vet for more information.

It’s also important to realize that some pooches are at higher risk with others. Pups with compromised immune systems are at elevated risk, as are puppies who have not yet had all of their vaccines and boosters. Brachycephalic breeds, such as pugs, are also in danger, as their short airways increase their risk of respiratory problems. 

What Is The Mystery Dog Illness?

That’s the big question: the illness hasn’t been positively identified … which is why it’s still being referred to as a mystery illness. It’s not yet been determined whether this is a new disease, or a new strain of something familiar. There’s also a chance that the outbreaks are not all being caused by the same thing, though that seems unlikely.

The illness is quite similar to kennel cough. As mentioned above, the term kennel cough is often used as an umbrella term to describe several respiratory illnesses in dogs. Therefore, kennel cough can be caused by viruses or bacteria. 

The biggest distinction between kennel cough and the mystery illness isn’t a good one. Kennel cough usually clears up with proper treatment. However, the new illness doesn’t respond to the treatments usually used for kennel cough.

The severity of the illness is another thing that makes it concerning. Although many pooches recover with proper treatment, others have not fared so well. And while a stubborn cough is the main sign, some pups do decline quickly. Fido may also develop a long-term case or a secondary infection. In fact, some of the afflicted pooches required surgical removal of infected tissue. Others were put on ventilators. This is uncommon, especially considering that some of the pups were young and healthy. Sadly, some of those dogs declined at an alarmingly fast rate.

What Causes The Mystery Illness?

While there is still a lot of information needed, researchers are making headway. Researchers from the University of New Hampshire’s Veterinary Diagnosis Laboratory and the Hubbard Center for Genome Studies claim to have identified a pathogen. They announced this after processing the results of genetic samplings of 70 dogs. About 30 of the pups were New Hampshire pooches that were infected last year. The rest were Massachusetts and Rhode Island, and got sick this year.

The pathogen in question has been referred to as a “funky bacterium” which seems to be adept at avoiding and defeating Fido’s natural immune system. So far, the illness does not appear to be able to survive outside a host, though, again, more research is needed.

How Is The Canine Mystery Illness Diagnosed?

Things get a bit tricky here, as there isn’t yet a definitive test. However, the pups that have been diagnosed with the mystery illness test negative for more common forms or canine respiratory illness. They also struggle to get over the infection. Usually, dogs with respiratory illnesses will have a cough that lasts about a week or so. With this illness, that cough persists longer than that, and in some cases continually worsens.

What Are The Warning Signs Of The Mysterious Dog Illness?

The warning signs in this case are quite similar to those of typical respiratory issues. Coughing, as one would expect,  is the most common sign. That cough may start mildly, and then accelerate quickly, but may also linger for weeks and may worsen into pneumonia.

Rapid, labored breathing is another red flag. Lethargy is another thing to watch for. Fido may seem extremely tired, and may want to spend his time snoozing in his doggy bed, rather than playing or cuddling. Other warning signs include fever; weight loss; discharge from the eyes or nose; wheezing; loss of appetite; and dehydration.

If you spot any of these symptoms in your furry friend, contact your Clarkesville, GA vet immediately. 

Because of the possibility of contagion, before bringing Fido into an emergency clinic, let them know your pooch is showing symptoms. Here at Petwise, we are mobile, but would still appreciate a heads up.

How Is The Mystery Illness Spread?

The virus seems to be airborne. Pups seem to be getting sick after breathing the same air as infected pooches. It could possibly also be spread through direct contact, and/or sharing bowls, toys, and dishes.  As a general rule of thumb, it’s wise to consider any gathering of dogs a potential hotspot for infection. Places such as dog groomers’ salons, kennels, dog parks, and doggy daycares are the hot zones for this one. Is your pooch due for vaccines? Do you have questions about your dog’s health or care? Contact us, your local Clarkesville, GA veterinarians, anytime!

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