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Respiratory illness spreads among dogs in several states. Here's what to do if your pup has symptoms

This stock image shows a veterinarian treating a dog.
Khakimullin Aleksandr
/
Adobe Stock
This stock image shows a veterinarian treating a dog.

As laboratories in several states investigate an unusual respiratory illness in dogs, veterinarians are encouraging people to take basic precautions to keep their pets healthy as they try to pin down what’s making the animals sick.

So far, New York has not been listed among the states in which the illness has been reported.

The Cornell Animal Health Diagnostic Center said on its website that it has received multiple reports from private practitioners in the Northeast.

New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Oregon, and Colorado are among the states that have seen cases of the illness, which has caused lasting respiratory disease and pneumonia and does not respond to antibiotics.

"In our area, we're not yet aware of a similar outbreak, but it's something that we're needing to keep track of," said Dr. Brian Collins, a senior lecturer at Cornell University's College of Veterinary Medicine in Ithaca.

Collins urged dog owners to be vigilant for signs of illness and to contact their veterinarian if their dog is coughing, sneezing, has difficulty breathing, lethargy, or decreased appetite.

"We do think that early testing and treatment are going to make a big difference in the outcome for these dogs," he said.

He did caution that there is not necessarily a single cause for the multiple outbreaks of illness across the U.S.

"Because we know there are different pathogens that can cause all these diseases, the ability to get to the bottom of it is going to depend on getting enough samples for laboratory testing," he said.

Labs across the country have been sharing their findings as they try to pinpoint the culprit.

The Oregon Department of Agriculture has documented more than 200 cases of the disease since mid-August.

Dogs have died, said Kurt Williams, director of the Oregon Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at Oregon State University. But without a clear way to define the disease or test for it, he said it’s hard to put a number on how many died from a severe form of the infection.

Williams had a simple message for dog owners: “Don’t panic.” He also said dog owners should make sure that their pets are up to date on vaccines, including those that protect against various respiratory illnesses.

David Needle, senior veterinary pathologist at the University of New Hampshire’s New Hampshire Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, has been investigating the mysterious disease for almost a year.

His lab and colleagues at the university’s Hubbard Center for Genome Research have looked at samples from dogs in Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Massachusetts and more will be coming from Oregon, Colorado and possibly other states.

He said his team has not seen a large increase in dogs dying from the illness but still encouraged pet owners to “decrease contact with other dogs.”

Beth Adams joined WXXI as host of Morning Edition in 2012 after a more than two-decade radio career. She was the longtime host of the WHAM Morning News in Rochester. Her career also took her from radio stations in Elmira, New York, to Miami, Florida.
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