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Facts About the New Mysterious Dog Disease: What Germantown, MD Dog Owners Should Know
December 15, 2023

You may have seen recent news coverage about a puzzling new respiratory illness that is impacting our canine companions. This is definitely something for dog owners to be aware of. Official warnings have been issued by multiple organizations, including the agricultural departments of Colorado and Oregon, as well as the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). A Germantown, MD veterinarian provides insights on this topic in the following piece.

Mysterious Dog Illness Outbreaks: Where Are They?

The unknown disease has been reported in several states, including California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. There are over 200 cases in Oregon alone, dating back to the beginning of August. It’s also made it past the border into Canada.

Is It Possible For Humans To Catch The Mysterious Dog Disease?

The risk of human contamination is very low, according to research conducted by the American Veterinary Medical Association and other organizations. The illness fortunately doesn’t seem to be spreading to other pets, either. However, we still recommend washing your hands thoroughly after handling your canine buddy, just as a precaution and to help reduce spread.

Is the Mystery Respiratory Illness Very Widespread?

Getting exact numbers is challenging now: most states aren’t officially tracking the outbreak, and many cases have been reported based on symptoms. It’s also worth noting that canine respiratory problems are sometimes grouped under the umbrella term kennel cough, which includes several other respiratory problems, such as Bordetella and canine parainfluenza.

In addition, testing for specific pathogens may produce some false negative results, which can muddy the numbers a little. There is a window between the time when a dog contracts a disease, but before they become sick enough to need veterinary attention. So, pups may be infected and spreading the disease while they are still asymptomatic.

As of yet, there is no definitive test. However, one key indicator is the fact that pups diagnosed with the mystery illness have tested negative for more common forms of canine respiratory illness. They also often have difficulty recovering. Usually, when dogs with respiratory illnesses have a cough, it lasts about a week. However, with this illness, the cough lasts longer.

What Are the Best Ways to Protect My Dog From Mystery Illnesses?

There is no foolproof way to keep Fido from contracting the respiratory illness, and likely won’t be until  a vaccine is developed. However, you can lower your pup’s risk of catching the disease.

Make sure that your dog is fully vaccinated against key diseases. In addition to the core vaccines, we’d also recommend the Bordetella vaccine. This is usually required for puppies who will be in contact with other dogs, whether at daycare, boarding facilities, parks, and even playdates. Ask your Germantown, MD vet for more information.

The Mystery Dog Illness: What Is It?

That is the ten million dollar question, at least so far. The illness has not been positively identified. There are a lot of possibilities … and a lot of questions. For instance, it is not certain if this is a new disease, or if it is a new strain of something familiar.

The outbreaks might also not be caused by the same thing, though this is unlikely.

Here’s what we do know: it is similar to kennel cough. As mentioned above, the term kennel cough is used to describe a number of respiratory illnesses in dogs. Therefore, kennel cough can be caused by bacteria or viruses, and may be mild or life-threatening.

The major difference between kennel cough and the mystery illness? Kennel cough usually resolves with proper treatment. However, the new illness does not always respond to the usual treatments.

The illness is a cause for concern due to its severity. Affected dogs can become extremely ill very quickly. While proper treatment leads to recovery in many cases, there have been instances where the pup’s condition continued to worsen. In some cases, surgical intervention or the use of ventilators was necessary. Unfortunately, several dogs—even young and healthy ones— have succumbed to the illness.

What Dogs Are At Risk?

Unfortunately, all of our canine buddies are at risk. However, there are things that would elevate Fido’s chances of contagion. Contact with other dogs is of course the biggest factor. It’s also worth noting that some pups are at heightened risk. That list includes pooches with weakened immune systems, elderly dogs, puppies that have not yet completed all of their initial vaccines, and brachycephalic pups, like pugs and bulldogs. 

Is There A Known Cause For The Mystery Illness?

Researchers are still looking for a culprit. A pathogen has been identified by researchers at the University of New Hampshire’s Veterinary Diagnosis Laboratory and Hubbard Center for Genome Studies. This was based on studies of genetic samples of 70 dogs, all of whom were from New England.

While there is more information needed, the pathogen in question has been referred to as a “funky bacterium” and seems to be adept at avoiding and defeating Fido’s natural immune system. 

What Are The Warning Signs?

The signs in this case are quite similar to those of other canine respiratory issues. Coughing is the most common one. The cough may begin mildly and then accelerate quickly. It may also last for weeks, and may develop into pneumonia.

Rapid, labored breathing is another red flag. Discharge from the eyes and nose, dehydration, fever, wheezing, loss of appetite, and weight loss are other warning signs. Fido may also seem very tired. He may spend most of his time snoozing in his doggy bed rather than wanting to play or cuddle. 

Contact your Germantown, MD vet right away if you notice any of these symptoms.

Definitely alert your vet or emergency clinic before bringing Fido in, so they can take steps to reduce the possibility of contagion to other furry patients.

How Does The Mystery Canine Illness Spread?

Close contact seems to be the culprit here. The disease appears to be airborne, as many pups are getting sick after breathing the same air as infected dogs. It could also spread through direct contact, such as snoot boops with other dogs, or sharing bowls, toys, and bedding. 

It’s generally a good idea to look at all doggie gatherings as potential infection hotspots. The most dangerous places are likely to be groomers’ salons, kennels, dog parks, and doggy daycares. That doesn’t mean you have to quarantine your pooch: just make informed choices about letting him interact with other dogs. Ask your Germantown, MD vet for more information.

Conclusion: The new canine respiratory illness can be very dangerous, particularly to pups with respiratory issues and/or compromised immune systems. While there’s no need to panic, it’s important to stay informed. Keep an eye out for the signs of the mystery illness, which include coughing, fatigue, weakness, reduced appetite, and nasal discharge. Contact your vet immediately if you notice anything wrong. 

Please contact us, your local Germantown, MD pet hospital, anytime, or if you have questions about your dog’s health or care. We are dedicated to providing top notch veterinary care to all of our canine patients.