Signs of mysterious respiratory illness affecting dogs reported from California to New Hampshire

By Chris Boyette | CNN

An infectious respiratory disease among dogs that continues to baffle veterinarians has now been reported in at least a dozen US states, from Washington, Oregon and California to New Hampshire, Florida and Pennsylvania.

David B. Needle, a pathologist at the New Hampshire Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory and clinical associate professor at the University of New Hampshire, and a team of researchers have been unable to identify it as any known canine respiratory disease.

“This early metagenomic work did not reveal any RNA or DNA virus of concern, and no typical fungal or bacterial respiratory pathogens were identified,” the researchers wrote.

Since the middle of August, the American Veterinary Medical Association said vets in Oregon have reported over 200 cases.

The mysterious illness was described as an “atypical canine infectious respiratory disease,” by the Oregon Department of Agriculture and symptoms include coughing, sneezing, eye or nose discharge and lethargy.

Melissa Justice, a veterinarian at the Indiana State Board of Animal Health, told CNN most of the cases reported to her agency appear to be similar to kennel cough, but it doesn’t respond to normal medication and the cough lasts longer than the normal seven to 10 days.

“Affected dogs may begin to show signs of lethargy, fever, decreased appetite, productive cough, nasal and / or ocular discharge, respiratory distress, or pneumonia,” Justice said.

The federal government is also getting involved. A spokesperson for the US Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service told CNN it is working with local agencies and diagnostic laboratories to identify the disease.

Where have cases been reported?

Pennsylvania may be the latest state to have dogs possibly coming down with the mystery illness.

John Donges of the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania told CNN, “We have only just received our first cases over the weekend.”

In Colorado, veterinarians are seeing a lot of cases in high-volume areas such as boarding facilities, doggie day cares and dog parks.

“Clinical findings and tests completed to date suggest that most dogs with the unusual syndrome have a virus that primarily targets the respiratory system, leading to secondary bacterial infection and pneumonia in affected dogs,” said an article published by the Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

“We have seen around 35 cases at my hospital alone, four of which have either passed away or been euthanized due to severity of the pneumonia. We are unsure at this time if this is viral or bacterial in origin,” Lindsey L. Ganzer, the CEO of North Springs Veterinary Referral Center in Colorado Springs, told CNN.

In Massachusetts, the Department of Agricultural Resources said it is working with neighboring states “to better understand the factors at play” and kennel operators should be requiring vaccination to prevent future outbreaks.

Veterinarians in California have seen the disease, too, with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health’s Veterinary Public Health Program receiving 10 case reports from veterinarians since November 16.

In Washington, the state’s Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory has also reported an increase in sick dogs.

“There has been an uptick in the numbers of dogs with respiratory disease, (coughing, lethargy, fever) and the signs have been persisting longer than a few days,” Kevin Snekvik, the lab’s executive director and a professor at the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine, told CNN.

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