eterinarians are struggling to understand this illness, which typically begins with a persistent cough and progresses to pneumonia, often unresponsive to antibiotics. The disease has led to fatalities within 24 to 36 hours in acute cases. While its cause and transmission method remain unknown, experts are working to investigate. Some affected dogs have presented symptoms such as fever, cough, lack of appetite, eye and nose discharge, sneezing, and difficulty breathing. Owners are advised to avoid boarding facilities and consider in-home care during the holiday season.
A mysterious respiratory illness has gripped hundreds of dogs across multiple U.S. states, including Colorado, Rhode Island, Oregon, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts, leaving veterinarians baffled and dog owners devastated.
The illness, which experts are scrambling to understand, typically begins with a persistent cough that may last for weeks and progresses to pneumonia, often resistant to treatment with antibiotics. This enigmatic disease has resulted in fatalities within as little as 24 to 36 hours in acute cases, raising concerns among pet owners and veterinarians alike.
Despite extensive efforts, very little is known about this illness, including its cause and transmission method. Veterinarians and researchers are working diligently to investigate the situation and find answers.
Dr. Lindsey Ganzer, a veterinarian who owns the North Springs Veterinary Referral Center in Colorado, reported that her hospital has encountered at least 35 cases of this mysterious illness since around October 20, with four resulting in fatalities due to severe pneumonia. None of the affected dogs have fully recovered, and the treatment approach thus far includes testing to rule out common viruses and infections, supplementary oxygen, and a combination of antibiotics. However, there is skepticism that this treatment addresses the root cause of the illness.
According to Dr. Ganzer, common symptoms include fever, cough, lack of appetite, eye and nose discharge, sneezing, and difficulty breathing. In the early stages, the illness often resembles kennel cough, which is a treatable condition. What sets this illness apart is the prolonged and unresolved cough, which quickly escalates into pneumonia. Veterinarians are opting for more aggressive treatment when they observe this specific pattern.
Marie Heckemeyer, a dog owner in Colorado, has experienced the devastating impact of this illness firsthand. After her dog, Thunder, fell ill following a boarding camp stay, she incurred a significant veterinary bill of over $16,900. Thunder initially showed signs of improvement but experienced a rapid deterioration in health and ultimately passed away. Three of Heckemeyer’s other dogs are still battling the illness, and she has spent thousands on their medical care.
In New Hampshire, a veterinary researcher, David Needle, began investigating the illness more than a year ago. He collected swabs from affected dogs and found that none of the known viruses, bacteria, or fungi that are typical pathogens were present. Interestingly, a “funky little bacteria” was discovered in 21 of the 30 initial animals sequenced. Evidence of this bacteria has since been found in dogs across New England.
Currently, there is no evidence to suggest that humans or other animal species can contract the illness from dogs. Researchers are actively studying the illness and collecting samples from various parts of the United States to gain a better understanding. However, for now, the fatality rate remains unclear.
To reduce the risk of exposure, dog owners are advised to avoid boarding facilities and doggy day care, especially in high-density dog environments. As the holiday season approaches, it is recommended to consider alternatives such as in-home care to protect your furry companions.