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Canine Respiratory Disease: What Every Burlington, ON Dog Owners Needs To Know

December 15, 2023

Have you been watching the news lately? If so, you may want to monitor a new doggy disease that is spreading through North America. This mystery illness is definitely something pet owners need to be aware of. Here, a local Burlington, ON veterinarian offers some information on this issue.

The Mystery Dog Illness: What Is It?

There’s certainly lots to learn here. We do know that the new illness seems to be adept at avoiding and defeating Fido’s natural immune system. For instance, it’s still unclear whether this is a new disease or a strain of something familiar. It’s also possible, though unlikely, that not all of these outbreaks are being caused by the same organism.

Here’s what we do know:

This new canine respiratory illness resembles kennel cough, and may even be referred to as such. Kennel cough is not a single disease: the term can refer to many respiratory illnesses in dogs.

As for the main difference between kennel cough and the new illness, well, it’s not exactly a good one. While kennel cough usually goes away with proper treatment, the new illness doesn’t always respond to standard treatments. If Fido develops a long-term case or a secondary infection, he may also be facing a fight. 

Another concern is the severity of the illness. Some of the affected dogs became extremely ill very quickly. Although many recover with proper treatment, that sadly isn’t always the case. Some pooches required surgery to remove infected tissue, while others had to be put on ventilators. Unfortunately, several dogs have died, some of which got sick very quickly. Ask your Burlington, ON  veterinarian  for more information.

What Is Behind The Spread Of The Mystery Canine Respiratory Illness?

Close contact seems to be the culprit here. As with many other respiratory diseases, pets often get sick from breathing the same air as infected dogs, and/or sharing bowls, toys, and dishes with them. (Fido’s habit of sniffing his buddies’ noses may also play a part.)

The risk of infection increases when there are many pups gathered. Potential hotspots for infection include groomers’ salons, kennels, parks, and doggy daycares. Keep in mind that one infected pooch is all it takes to spread the virus.

Though your vet may recommend quarantining Fido if he is at high risk, you do not necessarily need to cancel everything on your pet’s doggy calendar. Just be sure to take precautions. If you’re using a kennel or groomer this month, talk to them about the issue. And, as always, ask your Burlington, ON veterinarian for more information.

How Serious Is This  Mystery Canine Illness Outbreak?

At least 16 American states have reported cases of the respiratory disease, and several more are suspected. A number of pups have succumbed to the disease. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), as well as Colorado and Oregon’s departments of agriculture, have issued official warnings. Unfortunately, the problem seems to have crossed the border: cases have been found in Canada.

Most places are not formally monitoring the new illness outbreak, in large part because there is no definitive test for it. Therefore, numerous reports have been based on observable symptoms, rather than test results. To complicate matters further, several other canine respiratory problems, like Bordetella and parainfluenza, cause similar symptoms.

Inaccurate numbers aren’t helping, either. Sometimes a false negative occurs when testing for specific pathogens. Dogs can spread the disease before they become symptomatic, similar to what happened with some Covid cases. In other words, there is a window between the time the pups become contagious and when they become severe enough to require veterinary care. In that time, Fido may spread the illness to all of his buddies and playmates.

How Do Veterinarians DIagnose The Mystery Illness?

There is no definitive test for diagnosing new respiratory illnesses. However, the infected pups have tested negative for more common respiratory illnesses. 

Another way to tell is the fact that many pooches have difficulty getting over the infection. Dogs usually only cough for about a week or so. However, this bug is both tough and stubborn, and often won’t go away.

What Are Signs Of The Mysterious Dog Illness?

Coughing, fatigue, weakness, reduced appetite, and nasal discharge are the most commonly-reported signs.

At the top of the list? Coughing, which may begin mildly and then accelerate. That cough may last for weeks and/or worsen into pneumonia. Some pups get very, very sick after just 24 to 48 hours.

Wheezing is another red flag, as is rapid, labored breathing. Other warning signs include lethargy, discharge from the eyes or nose, fever, weight loss, and dehydration. Your four-legged buddy may seem exhausted, and may prefer to rest in his doggy bed rather than play Fetch, beg for walks or treats, or cuddle. Contact your veterinarian immediately if you notice any of these symptoms in your pet. 

If your pooch is sick enough to warrant emergency care, call the clinic before going in to let them know, so they can take steps to reduce the risk of contagion to other canine patients.

The Mysterious Dog Respiratory Illness Outbreaks: Where Are They Happening?

Several American states have reported outbreaks. California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington are all included in the official list. In Oregon alone, more than 200 cases have been reported since August. However, it is likely that there are other pockets of infection throughout the U.S. as well. Unfortunately, as mentioned above, cases have also been confirmed up here in Canada.

Is It Possible For People To Catch The Mysterious Dog Disease?

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association and other organizations, the risk of human contagion is (fortunately) extremely low. Another bit of silver lining? At least so far, the illness does not seem to be spreading to other animals. However, you should still wash your hands thoroughly after petting or handling Fido to reduce the spread of germs.

What Can I Do To Protect My Dog From The Mystery Canine Illness?

There is no foolproof way to prevent your furry companion from contracting the respiratory disease, at least until the culprit is identified and a vaccine developed. There are, however, things you can do to lower Fido’s risk.

The first thing you should do is make sure your pet is fully immunized. In addition to the core vaccines, we recommend Bordetella for pooches who will be in contact with other dogs, whether they attend daycare, boarding kennels, groomers, dog parks, or even playdates. For more information, please contact your veterinarian. The sooner the condition is diagnosed and treated, the better.

Some of our canine buddies  are more at risk than others. Dogs with compromised immune systems and/or known respiratory issues are most at risk. Young puppies are also in danger, as are brachycephalic dogs, such as pugs and both French and English  bulldogs. 

In conclusion, while there’s no need to panic about the new respiratory illness, we do recommend staying informed and watching out for symptoms, such as coughing and fatigue. Also, make sure your pet is current on all recommended vaccines. 
Contact us, your local Burlington, ON pet hospital, with any questions you may have about your dog’s health or care.

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