The Tennessee Veterinary Medical Association is investigating an unidentified respiratory illness in dogs. The illness has been reported in several states across the US, including Tennessee, and is characterized by symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, nasal discharge, and lethargy. While the exact cause of the illness is unknown, it is believed to be caused by a viral or bacterial agent.
The University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine has treated many dogs with respiratory illnesses on an emergent and long-term basis. The college’s emergency and critical care service has reported seeing and treating slightly more respiratory cases within the last couple of weeks to months.
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.
Most dogs that acquire infectious respiratory tract disease recover uneventfully. However, these cases don’t respond to standard medical therapy and can have a prolonged illness that can progress to pneumonia. Of these, some respond to antibiotic therapy, supportive therapy, and oxygen support, while other cases deteriorate rapidly.
If a dog is experiencing respiratory signs, including coughing, sneezing, ocular/nasal discharge, fever, and decreased appetite, pet owners should consult with a veterinarian. To prevent most respiratory illnesses, pet owners should take general precautions with their pets. As with most respiratory diseases, these principles are mainstays for preventing most respiratory illnesses: Just as you wouldn’t send a sick child to school if your dog is sick don’t board or drop off at daycare.
Limit pet contact with other dogs (such as more crowded environments like dog daycare, 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.
The unidentified respiratory illness in dogs is a cause for concern among pet owners. While the exact cause of the illness is unknown, it is believed to be caused by a viral or bacterial agent. Pet owners should take general precautions with their pets to prevent most respiratory illnesses and consult with a veterinarian if their dog is experiencing respiratory signs.