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Mystery respiratory illness in dogs spreading across the country, veterinarians’ advice to avoid potentially deadly disease

A mystery respiratory illness in dogs is spreading across the country. While veterinarians don’t know much about the sickness, they have some recommendations to avoid the potentially deadly disease.

Veterinarians have detected an unusual respiratory illness affecting dogs in 10 states across the country.

Since August, the perplexing illness was reported in 200 cases in Oregon.

Dr. Amanda Cavanagh – head of urgent care services at Colorado State University James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital, in Fort Collins, Colorado – told the “Today” show that she has seen dogs suffering from coughing bouts that last several weeks and even months since the summer and into the fall. Cavanaugh noted that the cases have doubled in the past month or so.

Cavanagh noted that the pneumonia can be “really severe,” and some of the dogs have died or had to be euthanized.

“It seems to happen very, very quickly – to go from this cough that just won’t go away … and then all of a sudden they develop this pneumonia,” said Lindsey Ganzer – veterinarian and CEO at North Springs Veterinary Referral Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Ganzer added that the sickness seems to develop “very, very quickly.”

Kevin Snekvik – Executive Director of the Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Lab – told KIRO-TV, “Your dog will run a fever and they won’t feel good. They’ll become lethargic, meaning they want to lie around more when normally they’d be wanting to play outside… and the coughing part of it, that becomes more productive like a wet cough, like a hacking cough.”

The Oregon Department of Agriculture has identified symptoms of the puzzling sickness – including sneezing, eye or nose discharge, fatigue, blue or purple gums from oxygen deprivation, trouble breathing, and negative tests for other common respiratory illnesses.

The Oregon Department of Agriculture said that the sickness develops in three different ways: a mild to moderate cough for six to eight weeks that doesn’t respond to antibiotics or responds slightly; chronic pneumonia that doesn’t respond to antibiotics; or severe pneumonia that “often leads to poor outcomes in as little as 24 to 36 hours.”

According to Ganzer and the Oregon Department of Health, there have been cases matching symptoms of the mystery respiratory illness reported in the following states:

  • Oregon
  • Colorado
  • New Hampshire and the surrounding Northeast area
  • California
  • Indiana
  • Illinois
  • Washington
  • Idaho
  • Georgia
  • Florida

“We’re still trying to pin down a potential cause or causes for the entity. At least in Oregon, it’s given us some challenges,” explained Kurt Williams – director of the Oregon Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at Oregon State University. He added that there are a variety of reasons why dogs develop a cough.

Williams recommended that dog owners should make sure that their pets are up to date on vaccines – including canine influenza, Bordetella, and parainfluenza.

The American Veterinary Medical Association is monitoring the cases of the enigmatic sickness, but it is unknown how many pets are infected and how many have died from the potentially deadly disease.

While veterinarians are not certain how the mystery illness spreads, they advise having your dog avoid close contact with other dogs at groomers, daycare, boarding kennels, and dog parks.

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Mystery illness affecting dogs

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