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May 19, 2024

Mysterious Respiratory Illness Sweeps Through Dog Populations

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Dec 18, 2023

A concerning respiratory illness of unknown origin has recently been detected in dogs in dozens of states across the US. State veterinary health officials, the USDA, and the CDC are investigating the outbreak and working to determine the exact cause behind what seems to be a distinct condition compared to more common canine illnesses.

As of December 2023, over 1,200 probable cases of the condition termed “canine respiratory disease of unknown cause” (CIRDC) have been identified across 36 states, with the highest number of cases seen in Michigan, California, and New York. Experts say CIRDC may have initially emerged as early as August 2022 before a more significant rise in cases was observed this fall.

Key Details on the Mysterious Dog Illness

|—|—|
|Name|Canine respiratory disease of unknown cause (CIRDC)|
|First Observed|August 2022|
|States with Cases| 36 and rising|
|# of Probable Cases|Over 1,200 as of mid-Dec|
|Most Affected States|Michigan, California, New York|
|Transmission|Unknown, but seems contagious|
|Symptoms|Cough, fever, lethargy, eye/nasal discharge|
|Severity|Mild to severe, death in some dogs|
|Risk Factors|Unkown, possible kennels/daycares|
|Treatment|Supportive care|
|Exact Cause|Still under investigation|

Distinct from Other Canine Illnesses

State veterinarians and health experts emphasize that CIRDC seems distinct from more routine illnesses in dogs like kennel cough or canine influenza based on lab analyses and the clinical presentation. For example, many dogs seriously afflicted with CIRDC have not responded to usual medications for kennel cough.

“The samples we’ve tested don’t have any of the usual respiratory pathogens in them,” explained Dr. Tony Forshey, the Ohio state veterinarian overseeing investigation efforts there. He added the illness did not match the patterns seen with canine influenza either.

Other states like California and Michigan have reported similar findings, noting CIRDC cases tend to involve more severe illness than expected with known respiratory pathogens. Still, pinpointing the exact cause remains a challenge.

Probable Exposure Sites and At-Risk Dogs

While the means of transmission for CIRDC is still uncertain, vets suspect it spreads from dog to dog based on the number and geographic spread of cases. Certain sites like kennels, daycares, boarding facilities, shelters, grooming salons and dog parks may pose higher risk.

Most affected dogs have been young to middle aged, but veterinarians emphasize that dogs of any breed or age could be vulnerable. Certain groups considered higher risk due to potential exposure include:

  • Dogs boarded or staying at kennels/facilities
  • Shelter/rescue dogs
  • Dogs socialized at parks or daycares
  • Unvaccinated puppies

Dog owners are advised to avoid unnecessary visits to high traffic facilities when feasible. Routine vaccinations, avoidance of strange dogs, and good hygiene remain vital too.

Investigation Efforts Ramp Up to Pinpoint Cause

With CIRDC cases mounting nationwide, state animal health agencies are collaborating closely with federal partners like the USDA and CDC to expedite lab testing and pattern analyses.

The USDA has deployed several veterinary epidemiologists to assist states with the highest case burdens. Agents are gathering samples from affected dogs for additional diagnostic tests, conducting trace investigations, and speaking with facility managers to hone in on any common factors.

“We know this is extremely concerning for dog owners,” said USDA Veterinary Services head Dr. Rosemary Sifford. “We have our best teams working urgently to determine if this is an emerging pathogen or toxin behind the illness.”

Researchers say it could still be weeks or months before a definitive cause is uncovered. But the dense collaboration aims to halt further spread and protect dogs.

Advice to Dog Owners Amid the Outbreak

Veterinary experts are urging dog owners across the country to take precautions as the outbreak evolves. Suggested tips include:

  • Avoid boarding/daycare except when essential
  • Prevent contact with unknown dogs when possible
  • Walk/exercise dogs individually if feasible
  • Monitor dogs closely for respiratory signs
  • Contact vet promptly if illness emerges

While alarming, vets emphasize most dogs experience mild to moderate illness which resolves with rest and supportive veterinary care. Still, owners of severely impacted dogs have accrued thousands in medical bills for ICU and oxygen support.

State vets advise against arranging playdates or comingling dogs with unknown health status to limit transmission. Holiday fostering of shelter dogs merits careful consideration too given potential CIRDC exposure.

“We know this puts a damper on holiday fun and traditions,” acknowledged a Michigan state vet official. “But temporary extra caution is vital to protect all our dogs.”

Uncertainties Lie Ahead

As the new year approaches, uncertainties remain regarding the troubling CIRDC outbreak. Key unsettled questions include:

  • Will cases escalate further? Experts cannot yet predict if illness rates are nearing a peak or if many more dogs nationwide may fall ill. Continued vigilance and reporting are critical.

  • What is the exact cause and definitive source? Researchers are working intensely to trace the origin amid hypotheses ranging from a variant pathogen to toxin or environmental exposure.

  • Are current dogs at risk for reinfection? It is still unknown if recovered dogs could get CIRDC again next year or beyond. This could impact 2023 booster vaccine efforts if developed.

For now, open communication and collaborative science persevere to caredog health amid this expansive outbreak. While 2023 brings added challenges, officials remain hopeful the year ahead will uncover solutions.

“We want owners and veterinary teams to know answers are being aggressively sought,” the USDA’s Sifford stated. “This is a prime focus for experts across the country aiming to halt this illness…we hope 2023 brings improved prevention and less ill dogs.”

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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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