Tennessee veterinarians weigh in on ‘mystery illness’ occurring in dogs
Given said because the respiratory-based mysterious illness is very similar to kennel cough symptoms, it is difficult for owners to determine the difference.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - There’s a mysterious illness causing respiratory symptoms among dogs across the country.
A veterinarian in Nashville believes the illness may have begun in Oregon.
“It seems like not your typical kennel cough, flu, COVID-19 even,” Chad Given, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at Hillsboro Animal Hospital, said. “So a lot of the diagnostics usually ran for respiratory diseases, they all come up negative at this point.”
Given said there are warning signs pet owners should pay attention to.
“I think the big thing is a lingering cough that is going on, combined with lethargy or anorexia or just being a little bit subdued, not as active as they normally are,” Given said. “They’re not eating as well as they normally are.”
Given said because the respiratory-based mysterious illness is very similar to kennel cough symptoms, it is difficult for owners to determine the difference. Experts say this particular illness, however, cannot be treated with antibiotics.
Given said it’s critical to ensure your dog’s vaccinations are up to date.
“It all goes back to prevention,” Given said. “So if you are vaccinated for the things that we can help, then great. And if you have to board your animal because you’re going out of town, just ask if there’s anything that has shown up in your boarding facility.”
Several dog owners in Nashville said they’ve never heard of the illness.
“If it was my dog, I would be really scared, upset,” Nankee Bedi said. “It’s like for any dog owner they would be scared because it’s someone who they love.”
Though it’s the first time learning about the mystery illness, owners said it is worrying to hear.
“So with dogs, I mean they got their nose on the ground, and they’re sniffing, and they’re licking stuff,” Dorian Geba said. So yeah, I’d be scared.”
Medical experts at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine in Knoxville (UTCVM) said they’re seeing and treating more respiratory cases within the last few weeks to months but not seeing any severe cases as reported in other states.
WSMV4 received the information below from Dr. Ashley Hartley, Assistant Professor of Small Animal Internal Medicine at UTCVM:
Currently, the UTCVM Emergency and Critical Care Service reports seeing and treating slightly more respiratory cases within the last couple weeks to months. Fortunately, we are currently not seeing the rapid decline or severe clinical signs in dogs as reported in other states.
While many canine respiratory illnesses can be suspicious for Bordetella sp. infections, commonly referred to as “kennel cough,” causes for respiratory disease can occur secondary to numerous causes. Infectious causes can be part of the larger canine respiratory infectious disease complex (CIRDC) involving several viruses and bacteria. Respiratory symptoms can also be secondary to heart disease, cancer, or other causes.
We recommend for pet owners to take general precautions with their pets. As with most respiratory diseases, these principles are mainstays for preventing most respiratory illnesses:
- Limit pet contact with other dogs (such as more crowded environments like dog day care, kennels, dog parks, groomers, etc.) to decrease the risk of transmission of viruses and bacteria.
- Ensure your pet is up to date on vaccines, including “core” respiratory vaccines. Additional vaccines for Bordetella sp. and canine influenza may be considered by your veterinarian for at-risk dogs.
- Contact your veterinarian or visit an emergency clinic if your pet is starting to exhibit worsening respiratory signs (difficulty breathing, coughing, dark blue or purple tongue, etc.). Some patients may need to be hospitalized for supportive care.
Because the illness remains unknown, Given understands the concern among dog owners. He said until there’s more information, emphasis should be placed on prevention of other infectious diseases.
“I think that’s a big question mark with any respiratory diseases,” Given said. “How many patients are out there that are asymptomatic? How many patients are out there with mild disease? How many patients are out there with severe disease or get secondary pneumonia and those numbers we don’t know without having an actual diagnosis of the cause it makes more challenging.”
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