Mystery dog illness sparks alarm across US as vets race to uncover cause

Mystery dog illness sparks alarm across US as vets race to uncover cause.—Reuters/file

A mysterious and potentially fatal respiratory illness is surfacing in dogs across several states in the US, leaving veterinarians perplexed and on a quest to identify the root cause. 

The ailment begins with a persistent cough that can endure for weeks, proving unresponsive to conventional treatments like antibiotics. This enigmatic condition has already claimed the lives of some dogs, raising concerns among pet owners and healthcare professionals.

Dr Lindsey Ganzer, CEO of North Springs Veterinary Referral Center, shares insights into the rapid progression of the illness, noting its swift transition from an enduring cough to severe pneumonia. Cases at her hospital have been on the rise, with approximately 30 dogs affected since mid-October, and the pace shows no signs of abating.

While acknowledging the worry among dog owners, Dr Kurt Williams from the Oregon Veterinary Diagnostics Lab encourages a cautious but not paralysed approach. He suggests preventive measures, such as limiting exposure to other dogs and ensuring vaccinations are up to date, especially against respiratory diseases.

Dogs afflicted with this mystery illness exhibit symptoms like coughing, sneezing, eye or nose discharge, and fatigue, and test negative for common respiratory causes. The Oregon Department of Agriculture has reported over 200 cases in the state since mid-August, urging veterinarians to report instances to aid ongoing investigations.

Dr Amanda Cavanagh from Colorado State University James L Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital notes an unusual spike in coughing cases, challenging the typical fall decline in veterinary settings. The challenge lies in categorising cases under investigation due to various causes of canine cough, requiring time to eliminate known factors.

Dr Williams speculates the possibility of a virus based on the infectious nature of cases. However, he emphasises the need for an open-minded exploration of other potential causes. The illness presents in three ways: a lingering cough, chronic pneumonia unresponsive to antibiotics, or severe pneumonia leading to poor outcomes within 24 to 36 hours.

The outbreak extends beyond Oregon, reaching states such as Colorado, New Hampshire, California, Indiana, Illinois, Washington, Idaho, Georgia, and Florida. The American Veterinary Medical Association monitors the situation, emphasising the unknown cause of the illness.

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