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  • Writer's pictureCarrie Maria

Mysterious Dog Illness puts Philly dog owners on edge

Last year it was Canine Flu and this year there is another dog-illness that has everyone wondering if it’s safe to greet other dogs or enter dog parks. We'll share what we know about it and efforts to unravel the mystery. While veterinarians don’t know much about the new sickness, the pandemic taught us a lot about keeping each other safe. (Spoiler alert: It might be a good time for some doggy-social-distancing.)

The Discovery:

The first reports of the mysterious respiratory sickness started to arise as pet owners noticed their dogs exhibiting symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, difficulty breathing, and nasal discharge. (These symptoms closely overlap those of Canine Flu and Kennel Cough so it can be hard to determine the culprit.) Concerningly, some cases escalated to more severe conditions, including non-responsive and persistent pneumonia. 

Symptoms and Progression:

According to the AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association) though this disease may mimic other diseases, the severity and persistence of symptoms raised alarm bells with vets. 

It can lead to:

  • Chronic pneumonia that is NOT responsive to antibiotics

  • Acute pneumonia that comes on VERY quickly (in 24-48 hours.)  

  • Chronic tracheobronchitis (an inflammation of the airways) that persists for 6-8 weeks. 

  • Lethargy

  • Loss of appetite

  • Neurological symptoms (in severe cases)

A dog goes for a walk in Philadelphia with a dog walker.
Moose goes for a socially-distanced dog walk. All of our walks are one-on-one for safety and personalization.

The Search for Answers:

Laboratories all over the world are actively working to map out this new illness. Initial tests ruled out known pathogens, raising concerns that a novel or mutated virus might be at the root of the outbreak. (Vets are not sure if it is bacterial or viral at this point.) Since this illness doesn’t respond to antibiotics / antivirals, most treatments are supportive and symptomatic in nature. Veterinarians are aiming to mitigate clinical signs and symptoms to help dogs recover until we figure out what the pathogen actually is.

Easy Steps you can take to protect your dog:

Preventive measures for dogs during an outbreak directly echo what we learned in 2020.

Social Distancing: Right now the exact method of transmission is unknown, but since this appears to be a respiratory illness it is likely spread through close contact and breathing the same air. (Does this sound familiar?) Many of the dogs that have passed away had underlying conditions (though not all.) Consider your dog’s overall health and your own tolerance for risk when you think about things like entering dog parks, using a shared waterbowl/toys, or greeting unfamiliar dogs on-leash.

Team Up with your Vet: Make sure your dog is up to date on shots, including Kennel Cough. Keeping your pup up to date on routine vaccinations helps boost their overall immune systems. And, you’ll save yourself anxiety during this uncertain time if you can prevent a case of Kennel Cough or flu. (Note there is also a vaccine for Canine Influenza.)

Isolate pups with Symptoms: If your pup comes down with symptoms, contact your vet immediately and isolate your dog to prevent transmission to other pups.

We’re urging caution and not panic. Small preventive measures can work wonders to keep your pup healthy until the scientific community figures out what makes this new bug tick.

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