Canine disease appears in Wisconsin. Veterinarians urge caution

Canine disease appears in Wisconsin.  Veterinarians urge caution

Wisconsin veterinarians are beginning to see cases of a potentially new disease in dogs, and are urging dog owners to take precautions in response, but there is also little evidence that the condition is fatal to most dogs.

What is now called atypical canine respiratory disease began showing up around the state in late October, according to Keith Paulsen, director of the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with clinics seeing between six and a dozen cases each. They began appearing in Colorado, Massachusetts and other parts of the country earlier in the year.


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Most veterinarians report that dogs treated for the disease have a cough that lasts four to eight weeks, according to a white paper Paulsen wrote Dec. 4 about the condition. It can look similar to kennel cough, which is caused by some known bacteria or virus and is generally characterized by cough, lethargy, runny nose, fever, and loss of appetite.

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But the new disease doesn’t respond to common kennel cough treatments, and researchers haven’t yet been able to pinpoint its cause — whether it’s a new or mutated virus, bacteria, or a combination of factors. There’s also some evidence that it doesn’t necessarily spread among dog populations, as is the case with kennel cough, Paulsen said. It doesn’t seem to jump between species, like cats, he said.

“Most likely, if I had to guess, it’s a new pathogen or maybe a changed virus or changed bacteria,” Paulsen said.

Jessica Pritchard, a veterinarian and researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison College of Veterinary Medicine, said there has been no increase in hospitalizations for kennel cough in the Midwest, and that it’s not clear “whether what we’re seeing is kennel cough again or if it’s something what”. new.”


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Coronavirus lockdowns may have had the effect of lowering dogs’ immunity to pathogens, as they and their owners restricted their contact with other dogs and delayed vaccinations at regular veterinary visits.

“We lost a lot of the protection we had for dogs when people stopped getting those vaccines because they didn’t travel or board their dogs,” she said.

Veterinarians recommend some strategies to prevent the disease while researchers continue to try to understand it:

  • Make sure your dogs receive recommended core vaccinations during regular veterinary checkups.
  • While it is unclear whether the disease spreads through groups of dogs, it is still worth considering the risks when placing your dog in group settings. It may be wise for owners to use dog parks when they are less busy or choose an in-home pet sitter rather than a kennel when they travel.
  • Particular caution is warranted with young dogs that have not had all of their vaccinations and dogs that are older or have other illnesses that may make them more susceptible to atypical canine respiratory diseases.

If a dog is just coughing but is eating, drinking and acting normally, it’s worth checking in with the dog’s vet and isolating the dog, but the dog likely won’t need emergency care, Pritchard said.


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“I don’t think people need to be so afraid,” she said. “We did this with Covid. We know what to do when we get sick: Stay home, try to avoid gathering in large groups where there may be unvaccinated or sick people or dogs, follow these rules, and you’ll probably be fine.

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