Veterinary laboratories in several states are investigating an unusual respiratory illness in dogs and encouraging people to take basic precautions to keep their pets healthy, while veterinarians try to determine what is making animals sick.
Oregon, Colorado and New Hampshire are among the states that have seen cases of the illness, which has caused long-lasting respiratory illness and pneumonia and does not respond to antibiotics.
Symptoms of respiratory illnesses in dogs include coughing, sneezing, runny nose or eyes, and lethargy. Some cases of pneumonia progress quickly, making dogs very ill within 24 to 36 hours.
The Oregon Department of Agriculture has recorded more than 200 cases of illness since mid-August. He encouraged pet owners to contact their veterinarian if their dog is sick and asked veterinarians across the state to report cases as soon as possible. The agency is working with state researchers and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Veterinary Services Laboratory to discover the cause of these diseases.
Dogs died, said Kurt Williams, director of the veterinary diagnostic laboratory at Oregon State University. But without a clear way to define the disease or test for it, he said it was difficult to put a number on how many people had died from a severe form of the infection.
Williams had a simple message for dog owners: “Don’t panic.” He also said dog owners should make sure their pets are up to date on vaccines, including those that protect against various respiratory illnesses.
Labs across the country shared their findings to try to identify the culprit.
David Needle, senior veterinary pathologist at the University of New Hampshire’s New Hampshire Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, has been investigating this mysterious disease for nearly a year.
His lab and colleagues at the university’s Hubbard Center for Genome Research examined samples from dogs in Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Massachusetts and others will come from Oregon, Colorado and perhaps others States.
He said his team had not seen a significant increase in the number of dogs dying from the disease, but still encouraged pet owners to “decrease contact with other dogs.”
The Associated Press Health and Science department receives support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.