What to know about mysterious dog respiratory disease: Signs, symptoms and more
A mysterious respiratory illness that may have afflicted dozens of dogs across the country could be caused by a new type of bacterial infection that may be very good at evading dogs’ immune systems, researchers said. Some dogs have died from the disease, which begins with a cough that can last for weeks, runny eyes, and sneezing.
In a development that may help shed light on the disease, which has affected a range of dog breeds, researchers at the University of New Hampshire Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory and the Hubbard Center for Genomic Studies told NBC News that they have identified a pathogen that may be the cause of the disease. Make pets sick.
By sequencing the genomes of samples from an initial group of 30 dogs from New Hampshire that became infected last year, and then an additional 40 dogs from Rhode Island and Massachusetts that became ill this year, researchers say they have discovered a previously unknown bacterium.
The pathogen is an “unconventional bacteria,” said Dr. David Needle, chair of the Department of Pathology at the University of New Hampshire’s College of Life and Agricultural Sciences. “They are smaller than ordinary bacteria in size and in the size of their genome. In short, they are strange bacteria that may be difficult to find and sequence.”
The bacterium is “new as a potential cause of disease, but it is likely that it is – or evolved from – a component of the canine microbiome,” he said. Dogs, as well as humans, have multiple types of harmless bacteria and other microorganisms that live inside and outside the body. It is believed to aid in the digestive process in the gastrointestinal tract.
The bacteria were discovered after painstaking research.
“After initial sequencing showed no known viral, bacterial or fungal pathogens, the painstaking, time-consuming work of graduate student Lawrence Gordon showed that 21 out of 30 initial samples from New Hampshire contained some substance,” Needle said. Genetics of an atypical bacterial species. .
He said the UN team is sharing its findings before publishing a research article, in the hope that they will give veterinarians some information as they deal with other respiratory syndrome outbreaks.
Scientists aren’t sure yet if the same bug is making dogs sick across the country. Many researchers have wondered whether the pathogen is bacterial or viral. One thing veterinarians know is that a germ is something they cannot recognize.
New Hampshire is one of the few states that has reported cases of respiratory infections in dogs.
The Oregon Department of Agriculture has received more than 200 case reports from veterinarians across the state since the beginning of August, Oregon Department of Agriculture spokeswoman Andrea Cantu Shomos said in an email. A very small percentage of the dogs died, Cantu Shomos said.
Other states with reported cases include:
Because there is no test yet for the disease and because many of the symptoms are similar to other respiratory infections, such as canine influenza and Bordetella (kennel cough), it is not known exactly how many dogs are infected. With hundreds of cases identified by symptoms reported just in Oregon alone, there are likely thousands.
Typically, to determine which antibiotics might work best against a particular type of bacteria, laboratories grow the germs in a petri dish and then try to kill them with different drugs. Needle and his colleagues were unable to grow the new bacteria in the laboratory. However, its structure offers some clues about which medications may be the best option to fight it. The antibiotic doxycycline was suggested to be effective.
If the New Hampshire researchers turn out to have found the right microbe, it could explain why some dogs become so sick, said Dr. Carl Gundry, a professor of small animal clinical emergency and critical care at the University of California, Davis. College of Veterinary Medicine.
He said it would likely be easier for small pathogens to get past a dog’s upper respiratory defenses and reach the lungs. He added: “If it gets into the lungs, there is a risk of pneumonia.”
According to Cantu Shomos of Oregon State, canine diseases develop largely in three ways:
- Such as an infection in the tubes that connect the throat to the lungs, which has little or no response to antibiotics.
- Such as chronic pneumonia that has little or no response to antibiotics.
- Such as acute pneumonia, which becomes severe quickly and often leads to severe illness or possibly death in less than 24 to 36 hours.
If your dog is experiencing a persistent cough and other respiratory symptoms, it is recommended that the owner contact a veterinarian.
While the respiratory symptoms sound like a viral illness, the test was negative for the virus, Cantu-Shomos said.
Colin Parrish, a professor of virology at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, said the cause was unlikely to be viral. He added: “With the sequencing methods that people use to search for unknown viruses, their signature could have been clear within a few days.”
He added that it’s possible that New Hampshire scientists have found the right pathogen, although their findings need to be confirmed by more research.
Although a record number of Americans are expected to travel during the holiday season, experts recommend that dog owners keep their pets away from kennels and other areas, such as dog parks, where infection may be more likely due to crowded conditions and close contact.
“When you bring a group of animals together, there is a greater possibility of contracting an infectious disease from other dogs,” said Dr. Curt Williams, director of the Oregon Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at Oregon State University’s Carlson College of Veterinary Medicine.
However, he said, there are some facilities where they are less likely to encounter the problem because of the way they are designed.
“I’ve asked people to work closely with their veterinarian,” Williams said. “And making sure their dog gets all the vaccines available, especially those for the respiratory diseases that we know about.”
Another option is for owners to hire a house sitter, Needle said. “Or hire a dog walker,” he added. “It may not be perfect, but it’s better than nothing. Also, you might want to consider spending Thanksgiving at home.”
Ultimately, your dog may be happier at home with a house sitter or dog walker stopping by several times during the day than going to a kennel, Gundry said.
“It is better to leave them in their own environment,” he added.