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Mysterious Respiratory Illness Affecting Dogs

November 27, 2023 |By: Dasha Perry, DVM

A new respiratory illness affecting dogs has been making the news. The symptoms are similar to kennel cough and dog flu—coughing, fever, decreased energy, and appetite. In some cases, dogs have developed pneumonia, and a small number have died from the disease. The illness is caused by either a bacterium or a virus that the scientific community is working diligently to identify.

While we are uncertain about what is causing this upper respiratory illness in dogs, there are steps you can take to keep your pup safe. First, ensure that your canine is up to date on their Bordetella and canine flu vaccines. Call your veterinarian if you’re not sure and schedule an appointment to get your pet updated. The Bordetella vaccine is an annual shot, and the canine flu vaccine initially requires a series of two shots three to four weeks apart, then it is administered annually.

Monitor your pet closely for coughing, lethargy, and changes in appetite. If you notice any of these clinical signs, please schedule a visit with your veterinarian to have your pet assessed. Your dog’s visit will include a physical exam and likely recommendations for viral testing and chest x-rays to evaluate pneumonia. Based on your pet’s physical exam, your veterinarian may or may not send your pet home with a course of medication. Your veterinarian will also provide guidance on how long your pet should be isolated from others.

Finally, whenever possible, try to keep your pet separated from other dogs. This means limiting trips to dog parks and doggie daycare. Avoid socializing your dog with others on the street and in apartment building hallways, lobbies, and elevators.

What about cats? There are no reports of this mysterious respiratory illness affecting cats. However, the same recommendations apply—monitor closely for coughing, lethargy, and changes in appetite. When in doubt, give us a call; our technicians can help you decide whether an appointment is the most appropriate course of action for your pet.