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A strange dog illness is spreading across the US. Here’s what pet owners need to know.


In at least 14 states in the US, including California, dogs have been getting a mysterious respiratory disease that can spread and kill.

A new report from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health’s Veterinary Public Health Program on November 21 says that at least 10 cases have been found in California since November 16. Right now, there have been no reports of cases in Riverside County. However, pet owners may still be thinking what they can do to keep their four-legged family members safe.

The Riverside County Department of Animal Services talked to The Desert Sun about what they know about the disease, what signs to look out for, and how to keep from getting it.

What’s the sickness?

A lot is still unknown about the dog respiratory virus, but Kerri Mabee, a spokeswoman for animal services, said it makes dogs cough, sneeze, and have runny noses.

This summer, the first cases were found in Oregon. Since mid-August, more than 200 cases have been found in the state, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.

“We don’t know where or how it started, but it’s been reported in several states across the country,” said Sara Strongin, head veterinarian for the Riverside County Department of Animal Services. “Dogs that are affected usually have been in a group setting for dogs before, like a dog park, a boarding facility, doggie daycare, etc.”

Common illness in dogs when they get old

How does it get around?

Mabee said that touch between the noses or breathing in the air of a sick animal are likely ways that the disease is spread.

A mysterious lung disease is spreading among dogs.
Does the respiratory disease spread to people?
From what we know now, the answer is no.

A senior veterinary pathologist at the University of New Hampshire’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory named David Needle and his team did research that was reported in USA Today. They found that the small genome, a bacterium, is “host adapted,” which means it is more likely to stick to the organism it is used to.

What are the signs?

Some of the most common signs that your dog has a respiratory disease are:

Having coughs and sniffles
Having trouble breathing
Taking quick breaths
Wheezing or whistling in the nose
Loss of water
Having trouble working
Feeling sick
Fluid in the nose or eyes
Not wanting to eat
Loss of weight
Feeling tired

Does the sickness kill?

The New York Times says that the illness has sent some dogs to the hospital and killed older dogs or dogs who already had health problems. Strongin said that some dogs may have mild to moderate illnesses that last for six to eight weeks or longer.

People in Los Angeles bring their dogs to a park on August 31, 2022. Veterinary labs in Oregon, Colorado, and New Hampshire, among other states, are looking into a strange respiratory illness in dogs that lasts for a long time and doesn’t get better with medicines. More than 200 cases of the disease have been reported to the Oregon Department of Agriculture since the middle of August 2023. They are working with state experts and the National Veterinary Services Laboratory of the U.S. Department of Agriculture to figure out what is causing the illnesses.

How can people make sure their dogs are safe?

Mabee tells dog owners to keep their dogs at home and stay away from dangerous places like dog parks, doggy daycares, and boarding houses.

If they want to board their dogs until we know more, she said, “maybe they can look at other options,” like asking a family member or close friend to dog-sit.

“Since the causative agent remains unknown, treatment is essentially supportive in nature — fluids, nutrition, supplemental oxygen, possibly anti-inflammatories,” she told us.

What should you do if you think your dog has it?
If you see any of these signs in your dog, especially ones that could mean they have pneumonia, call your vet right away.

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