New Respiratory Disease in Dogs

You have probably seen the reports of a new respiratory illness occurring in dogs.  The Oregon Agriculture Department (OAD)t began seeing case reports of dogs suffering from an illness that resembled kennel cough but was both longer lasting and more severe in early August.  Since then, the illness has been reported in at least eight other states.  Samples from the affected animals test negative for all the usual bacteria and viruses that labs currently test for.  While veterinarians and scientists work to find a diagnosis and treatment, how can you spot the condition in your dog and what can you do about it?

What are the signs of this illness?

The OAD reports that there are three basic categories of cases of this illness:

  • Chronic mild to moderate inflammation of the trachea lasting six to eight weeks or longer, which is minimally or not responsive to antimicrobials.
  • Chronic pneumonia that is minimally or not responsive to antimicrobials.
  • Acute pneumonia that rapidly becomes severe and often leads to poor outcomes in as little as 24 to 36 hours.

Accordingly, signs of this new illness include:

  • coughing, 
  • discharge of mucus from the nose and/or eyes, 
  • unexplained tiredness, 
  • loss of appetite, 
  • sneezing, 
  • difficulty breathing and
  • fever.  

What should you do if your dog has or you suspect it has this illness?

If you see these signs in your dog, you should contact your veterinarian immediately.  Your veterinarian can rule out other diseases and begin treatment both to alleviate your dog’s signs and, possibly, treatment with antibiotics.  Some veterinarians report that doxycycline may be at least somewhat effective in treatment.

As long as your dog is sick and, perhaps, for a few days thereafter, you should isolate your dog from all other household animals.  (The Los Angeles County health department suggests 28 days of isolation after the first sign is observed.)  Avoid playing and, especially, nose rubs between dogs, avoid sharing water and food bowls with other animals, avoid close indoor contact with other animals, and avoid dog parks, boarding facilities and grooming facilities.  You should also keep any indoor areas that the dog occupies well ventilated and frequently clean all surfaces the dog comes or may come into contact with EPA-listed disinfecting products or bleach.