A mysterious and potentially fatal contagious respiratory illness has been affecting dogs in at least 14 states across the United States, including California.
According to a recent press release by the Veterinary Public Health Program of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, California has reported at least 10 cases since November 16. While there have been no reported cases in Riverside County as of now, pet owners might be concerned about safeguarding their beloved pets.
The Desert Sun had a conversation with officials from the Riverside County Department of Animal Services. They provided insights on the disease, highlighted the symptoms to be aware of, and shared strategies to reduce the risk of infection.
What is the illness?
The dog respiratory virus remains shrouded in mystery, with many aspects yet to be understood. According to Kerri Mabee, spokesperson for animal services, this virus leads to symptoms such as nasal discharge, coughing, sneezing, and lethargy.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, more than 200 cases have been reported in Oregon since mid-August, with initial cases being reported earlier this summer.
“We are unsure of the exact origin or mode of transmission, but this illness has been documented in various states nationwide,” stated Sara Strongin, the chief veterinarian of the Riverside County Department of Animal Services. She further explained, “Dogs that have been affected often have a background of being in environments where they interact with other dogs, such as dog parks, boarding facilities, or doggie daycare centers.”
How does it spread?
According to Mabee, the illness is most likely transmitted through close contact, such as touching noses or inhaling the same air as an infected animal.
Does the respiratory illness transfer to humans?
As of current information, the answer is no.
Research conducted by David Needle, a senior veterinary pathologist at the University of New Hampshire’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, and his team, as reported by USA Today, indicates that the small genome bacterium is “host adapted.” This adaptation allows the bacterium to adhere more easily to the specific organism it is accustomed to.
The veterinarian confirmed that no cases of owners falling ill have been reported.
What are the symptoms?
Respiratory illness in dogs can manifest in a variety of symptoms. Some of the common signs to look out for include:
- Coughing and sneezing
- Difficulty breathing
- Rapid breathing
- Wheezing or nasal whistling
- Difficulty exercising
- Nasal or eye discharge
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
Where have cases been reported?
As of Monday, the illness has been reported in the following states:
- New Hampshire
- Rhode Island
Can your pet be tested for the illness?
According to Strongin, there is currently no available test for the illness due to the unknown causative agent. However, the disease can be suspected if a dog exhibits compatible clinical signs and history, but tests negative on a respiratory PCR panel. This panel is typically used to diagnose more common respiratory diseases.
Is the illness fatal?
According to the New York Times, the illness has resulted in hospitalizations and fatalities among older dogs or those with pre-existing health conditions. Strongin mentioned that some dogs may experience a longer duration of mild to moderate illness, which can last for six to eight weeks or even more.
What can pet owners do to keep their dogs safe?
Mabee advises dog owners to keep their dogs at home and steer clear of high-risk environments like dog parks, doggy daycares, and boarding kennels, if they can.
“If individuals are considering boarding their dogs, it might be worth exploring alternative options,” she suggested. For instance, they could consider asking a trusted family member or close friend to take care of their dogs while they are away.”
To ensure the well-being of their furry companions, it is crucial for dog owners to keep their pets’ vaccines up to date, thus minimizing the risk of any underlying health issues. The Riverside County Department of Animal Services offers convenient vaccine services, and interested individuals can schedule appointments by visiting their website at https://rcdas.org/pet-services/vaccinations-microchips.
You can also find free mobile clinics happening throughout the county. To access a list of dates and locations, you can visit https://rcdas.org/mobile-wellness.
What treatments are being implemented for this illness?
According to Strongin, antibiotics have proven to be ineffective in treating this disease.
“According to the expert, as the exact cause of the condition is still unidentified, the main approach to treatment is providing support to the patient. This includes administering fluids, ensuring proper nutrition, providing supplemental oxygen, and in some cases, using anti-inflammatory medications,” she explained.
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.