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Mysterious respiratory dog illness detected in several states: What to know



Veterinary laboratories are warning pet owners about an infectious respiratory disease that was first detected among dogs a few months ago.

Cases have spread to at least five states while experts are still trying to figure out the cause of the illnesses, the American Veterinary Medical Association said in a news release on Friday.

Here’s everything to know about the mystery illness, symptoms to look out for and what to do if you suspect your dog could be affected.

What is the mystery dog illness?

Veterinarians describe the illness as a respiratory disease that can cause coughing, sneezing and lethargy. They say it can sometimes lead to pneumonia and does not respond to antibiotics.

Experts are yet to fully understand the disease and the cause behind it, says David Needle, senior veterinary pathologist at the University of New Hampshire’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory. Needle said that he and his colleagues at the University’s Hubbard Center for Genome Research have been studying the virus for more than a year.

Since mid-August, veterinarians in Oregon have reported more than 200 cases, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. Numbers from other states have not yet been revealed.

What states have cases of the dog illness?

Cases of the disease have been reported in a several states including New Hampshire, Colorado, Oregon, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, according to The New York Times. However, experts have said that the situation is not a cause of concern, but have still advised pet owners to exercise basic precautions to ensure their pet’s health.

How does the respiratory illness spread?

Needle said that given the respiratory nature of the disease, it is most likely spread through close contact and breathing in the same air of an infected animal, similar to how COVID-19 spread.

Is the dog illness fatal?

Needle says that the disease is not particularly fatal and is more of a chronic respiratory illness.

“I think a subset of animals can develop pneumonia, more or less like upper respiratory, bronchitis, rhinitis, tracheitis,” said Needle.

For animals that experience that secondary infection, it can lead to death, Needle explained.

Needle said that him and his team have not seen a spike in death from this illness but still encouraged pet owners to decrease contact with other dogs.

What are the symptoms of the dog illness?

Here are some of the common symptoms of the respiratory illness in dogs:

  • Coughing / Sneezing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Rapid breathing
  • Wheezing or nasal whistling
  • Dehydration
  • Difficulty exercising
  • Fever
  • Nasal or eye discharge
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Lethargy

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What should you do if you suspect your dog is affected?

If you notice any of the symptoms in your dog, especially any symptoms that could be related to pneumonia, contact your vet immediately, said the Oregon Department of Agriculture.

They have also told state veterinarians to report cases as soon as possible.

How can you keep your dog safe from the respiratory illness?

Needle advises dog owners to ensure that their pet’s vaccines are up to date, so that they do not have any underlying conditions. They also suggest social distancing from other dogs and animals to prevent the transfer of the pathogens.

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Contributing: Associated Press

Saman Shafiq is a trending news reporter for USA TODAY. Reach her at and follow her on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter @saman_shafiq7.

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