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May 19, 2024

Mysterious Canine Respiratory Illness Spreads Across U.S. During Holidays

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Dec 20, 2023

A mysterious respiratory illness is spreading rapidly among dogs across the United States, prompting warnings from veterinarians and animal health experts during the busy holiday travel season. Though the exact cause remains unknown, the disease is characterized by coughing, difficulty breathing, lethargy, and discharge from the eyes and nose.Cases have now been detected in over 30 states with hotspots on both coasts.

Outbreak Traced Back to August in Michigan

The first potential cases of what is now being called “canine respiratory illness of unknown cause” (CIRDC) were spotted in Michigan as early as August 2022 according to the state’s Department of Agriculture. Since then, the disease has continued spreading nationwide with veterinary clinics and animal hospitals reporting more frequent admissions for respiratory issues often with poor outcomes.

By mid-November, CIRDC cases were being investigated more widely and a network called ACIRDC (Atypical Canine Respiratory Disease Complex) was formed to study the outbreak. Researchers collaborated to rule out known pathogens as a potential cause and have still not been able to identify the exact origin though viral and bacterial agents remain top suspects.

Warning Issued By CDC as Holiday Travel Ramps Up

With Thanksgiving travel completed, many families are again planning trips with their pets over the December holidays potentially exacerbating the spread of CIRDC warns the CDC. Their guidance says pets with respiratory signs should avoid boarding, daycare, grooming salons, dog parks or other settings with mingling canines.

Veterinary critical care specialist Dr. Jason Smith said, “Any unnecessary travel and inter-pet contact poses an avoidable risk right now. We still have more questions than answers on the disease itself, but reducing exposure seems key.”

Holiday travelers noticed fewer dogs at airports and hotels compared to prior years likely due to the warnings. But many have trips planned with pets that cannot be easily changed or cancelled without losing deposits. Hotels and airlines are working to accommodate concerned guests by enhancing pet area sanitation efforts and allowing fee waivers.

Clues Emerge on At-Risk Populations

Analysis of case reports submitted voluntarily by veterinarians reveals that young dogs under 2 years old represent approximately 72% of recent CIRDC cases. Additionally, the CDC notes certain breeds have been overrepresented though dogs of any breed or mix can become infected.

Breeds Overrepresented in CIRDC Cases
French Bulldogs
Bulldogs
Pugs
German Shepherds
Golden Retrievers
Labrador Retrievers

These breeds may have anatomical factors or medical conditions that increase susceptibility, but researchers emphasize there are still more unknowns than definitive answers when it comes to risk factors.

Warning Signs For Pet Owners

As gatherings with visiting friends and family take place through the holidays, the University of Wisconsin Veterinary School reminds pet owners to monitor their dogs closely for key signs of respiratory illness including:

  • Coughing more than normal, especially if persistent
  • Gagging or difficulty swallowing
  • Open-mouthed breathing or panting excessively
  • Blue-tinged gums or tongue
  • Runny eyes or nose with thick discharge
  • Extreme lethargy without other explainable cause
  • Fever above 104°F

Quick veterinary care is essential for dogs exhibiting these symptoms as the illness can advance rapidly in some cases. But owners are also cautioned not to flood emergency clinics if symptoms appear mild.

Animal Health Groups Coordinate Response

On December 15th, the National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN) hosted an online meeting for hundreds of veterinarians, researchers, state agricultre officials and animal health experts allowing open discussion of the crisis.

Investigators from Midwest vet school hotspots like the universities of Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa shared early challenge study results conducted by exposing dogs to sick animals’ respiratory secretions. Though inconclusive so far, it adds proof that viral transmission is likely playing a key role. Bacteria and their associated toxins may still be contributing factors for disease severity.

NAHLN’s director Dr. Sarah Tomlinson stated, “I’m confident our coordinated efforts and deep experience with emerging zoonotic diseases will help shine more light on this situation quickly in 2023 despite the challenges of widespread holiday travel right now.” She added that the network plans to issue uniform guidance for screening, diagnostics, reporting and prevention measures after assessing stakeholder feedback and analysis in early January.

Until more specific directions are available, veterinarians largely reinforce avoiding unnecessary pet mingling in crowded indoor spaces as prudent during winter months when kennel cough and other pathogens spread more easily regardless of the CIRDC situation. Owners planning gatherings with pets from multiple households are encouraged to do so outdoors whenever feasible.

Short Term Outlook Remains Uncertain

Veterinary hospitals and specialty ER facilities across the country have continued operating above capacity through December managing both routine case loads and CIRDC admissions simultaneously.

Staffing shortages compound the issue at some practices already, but others report losing newly hired team members out sick themselves or quitting due to burnout from the crisis. Many locations are only allowing dog patient visits by appointment to manage flow.

Experts are hopeful case volumes may decline in early 2023 after holiday travel but warn a scenarios involving further mutation or new strains emerging remains a concern influencing the longer-term outlook. All pet owners are advised to keep dogs up to date on core vaccines and monitor health status vigilantly in the coming months.

The tight-knit veterinary medicine community maintains open channels of communication supporting each other as this crisis plays out. They aim to continue advancing prevention guidance as evidence is gathered but also brace for persisting elevated caseloads into early 2023 realistically. Puppy classes, doggie daycares and kennels hit hardest financially ride out the storm offering carefully controlled services to loyal long term customers when possible.

Public health and agriculture officials reiterating this appears to strictly be an animal health issue presently with no related human illness reported. But pandemic-weary communities wonder what yet another emerging disease signal about vulnerability factors in modern societies. The priority stays centered on caring for beloved pets and clients though while the mysterious canine disease hopefully becomes less CIRDC as 2023 progresses.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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