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What we know about the 'mystery' dog illness

Sleeping puppy in hospital cage
Feel better little guy!

Throughout 2023, veterinarians have been discussing concerns about an upper respiratory infection in dogs that doesn’t seem to quite match the typical “kennel cough” illness. Originally reported in Colorado and Oregon, this new disease has now been seen in about 14 states. What’s going on and should you be concerned for your pup?

The bottom line is that as of the end of November 2023, researchers have still not conclusively pinned down the pathogen causing these problems. Diagnostic testing, like PCR panels, have not found the elusive bug and this fact, along with a lot of media attention, has generated anxiety across the country. A Facebook group now has over 46,000 members, mostly non-veterinarians, all discussing the various reports that are posted almost daily about this unknown disease.

What we don’t know is if this is truly an outbreak or if we are just seeing more cases of respiratory disease because we are paying more attention. These are not generally reportable diseases in most states, so what the true incidence is of upper respiratory issues in dogs is not really known.

Older dachshund lying on a pillow
Are you worried?

It seems that dogs who get sick and start coughing tend to have a longer course of the disease, often stretching out for 4-6 weeks when generally most dogs will get over the typical Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease Complex (CIRDC, the most accurate name for “kennel cough”) within 10-14 days. Unfortunately, some dogs are developing pneumonia and a few pets have died.

Here are some quick “Dos and Don’ts” when it comes to this mystery!

  • Do follow your veterinarian’s recommendations for vaccinations, including Bordetella, Parainfluenza, Adenovirus, and possibly Canine Flu vaccines.

  • Do keep your dog’s friend list tight and avoid contact with unknown dogs.

  • Do keep your dog away from obviously sick dogs.

  • Call your veterinarian if you are concerned about your pet who might have risk factors (geriatric pets, very young pups, immunocomprimised, underlying heart or respiratory disease, or short-faced dogs like pugs, bulldogs, etc.

  • Don’t panic!! Veterinarians are used to seeing upper respiratory infections and your family veterinarian knows how to handle these kinds of cases.

  • Don’t take your dog to boarding, grooming, or doggie day care if he or she is experiencing coughing, sneezing, or any sort of discharge from the eyes or nose.

  • Don’t believe everything you read online, especially if it is not from an expert source. Facebook groups and Internet Chat rooms rarely have “experts”.

If you are looking for good, accurate, and timely information, I would advise that you stay tuned here at PetPalsTV, but you can also check out the Worms and Germs Blog. The veterinarian who writes this blog is well versed in infectious disease and is great at sharing data in layman’s terms!

We will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates as needed.


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