Veterinarian Debbie White of Lone Mountain Animal Hospital in Northwest Las Vegas discusses the “mysterious dog respiratory disease”, its symptoms, and the importance of consulting with your veterinarian if you notice these symptoms in your dog.
Sunday, December 10, 2023
Recently, there have been reports on news outlets and social media about an outbreak of a ‘mystery dog respiratory disease’ affecting dogs nationwide. Below are some frequently asked questions to provide assistance to pet owners.
Is there an outbreak of increased respiratory disease in dogs?
As of now, this remains uncertain. Multiple sources are indicating a rise in cases, yet obtaining reliable data to substantiate these numbers proves challenging.
Veterinarians regularly diagnose and treat respiratory disease year-round, so it’s not known if there is a true increase in the number of respiratory cases. It’s common to see spikes in illness or heavy pockets of respiratory infections of known agents. Additionally, it’s unclear if heightened media attention has caused an increased public awareness of these cases that regularly occur. Other pet factors that might be at play include Covid factors like decreased vaccinations, less available veterinary care, or Covid time restrictions limiting social exposure of dogs.
The pet insurance company Trupanion has tracked a steady increase in respiratory illness claims in recent years, but this only reflects a small percentage of owned pets. It’s also not clear if these were vaccinated, or unvaccinated pets or if other factors can explain their findings.
What are the symptoms of the respiratory illness?
Coughing, fever, oculonasal discharge, lethargy, and reduced appetite are among the symptoms associated with this respiratory illness. A small number of pets have experienced pneumonia, with some unfortunate cases resulting in fatalities.
It should be recognized that these symptoms are common with many other respiratory infections. Veterinarians regularly treat similar symptoms in dogs with Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease (CIRD) commonly known as “Kennel Cough”. CIRD may be caused by one or more of 10 infectious agents: bacteria like Mycoplasma or Streptococcus equi zooepidemicus and viruses like Canine Influenza, Parainfluenza, Pneumovirus, and Herpes Virus. Most cases of CIRD are mild and symptoms improve within 1-3 weeks, although severe cases and pneumonia are possible with CIRD.
Some recent cases have been concerning because they were more severe in nature, prolonged up to 6 weeks of illness, and failed to respond to regular treatments including antibiotics and antivirals.
Is there some new bacteria or virus causing the recent respiratory cases? Is this a new form of Kennel Cough?
Currently, there is no conclusive evidence pointing to the presence of a new infectious agent causing illness. However, researchers are actively conducting tests to assess the potential existence of such an agent.
Why can’t veterinarians tell if this is an outbreak?
Canine respiratory disease complex is common in veterinary practice and is not reportable to any federal or sta
te agencies. Tracking data isn’t regularly performed for CIRD cases, although news reports 14 states with suspected cases to date.
What are factors that may increase a dog’s risk of respiratory disease?
Dogs that attend group dog activities such as dog parks, dog shows, boarding and grooming facilities will be around more dogs and inherently are at more risk of acquiring respiratory infections.
Dogs with chronic illnesses like cardiac disease, respiratory disease, and immune suppression may be at greater risk of infection.
Elderly pets and puppies may be at greater risk.
Brachycephalic breeds (smushed faced breeds) like Pugs, Bulldogs, and French Bulldogs may be at higher risk of infection due to their respiratory anatomy and existing breathing limitations.
What should pet owners do? Should we stop taking our dogs out in public?
There is no reason for pet owners to panic. It’s important to consult with your veterinarian about your pet’s lifestyle, health background and current vaccinations to make informed decisions. Owners should weigh the risks against the benefits of maintaining their pet’s regular training, socialization, grooming and boarding needs.
Speak with your veterinarian about your dog’s lifestyle and ensure he is fully vaccinated for his activities. Core vaccines advised for all dogs include Rabies, Parvovirus and Canine Distemper combination (including Canine Adenovirus type 2 and Parainfluenza). Additional vaccines suggested for dogs with a social lifestyle include Bordetella and Canine influenza.
Be sensible about avoiding your dog’s exposure to stray dogs, or those with unknown vaccination and health status.
My dog is showing respiratory symptoms- what should I do?
Schedule a consultation with your veterinarian who will take a thorough clinical history and perform a physical exam. There are many causes of coughing and respiratory signs, and your veterinarian can advise based on their findings. Possible testing for CIRD cases may include chest x-rays, bloodwork, and Respiratory testing via cultures and PCR. Early lab testing is encouraged when symptoms first develop, since tests may falsely appear negative if testing is delayed. Early testing also best guides therapy decisions.
The good news is that the vast majority of CIRD cases are mild, and pets recover with supportive care alone. Other cases may be treated with medications and antibiotics, while more severely ill cases may require in hospital care.
Coming out of several years of COVID has left us all vigilant with respiratory infections. It’s reasonable for pet owners to be concerned and look out for their pet’s health. Your family veterinarian is your best source of reliable medical information and will help navigate decisions important for your pet’s individual needs.
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