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Canine Respiratory Disease Alert

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Earlier this year, the Cornell Animal Health Diagnostic Center (AHDC) received numerous reports from veterinarians in the northeastern United States about an increase in the number of patients treated for a canine respiratory disease.

This illness has led to pneumonia in some affected dogs; however, a causative agent has not been identified. Treatment has required varying levels of supportive care, ranging from antibiotics to supplemental oxygen.

In August 2023, the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) began receiving similar reports of an atypical canine infectious respiratory disease complex (CIRDC) circulating in the Willamette Valley. Since then, over 100 case reports from Oregon veterinarians have been submitted to the ODA. They are actively collaborating with specialists at OSU's Carlson College of Veterinary Medicine, the Oregon Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, and the USDA's National Veterinary Services Laboratory to identify the cause of these cases.

Here is what we currently know about this situation: Possible Viral Etiology:

The reported cases are strongly suspected to share a viral cause, although common respiratory diagnostic testing has yielded mostly negative results. A few cases have tested positive for M. cynos, but this agent is not believed to be the primary causative factor. Clinical Syndromes: Reported cases primarily fall into three clinical syndromes:

  • Chronic mild-moderate tracheobronchitis lasting 6-8 weeks or longer, minimally responsive to antibiotics.

  • Chronic pneumonia that does not respond well to antibiotics.

  • Acute pneumonia progresses rapidly and often leads to poor outcomes within 24-36 hours.

Recommended Next Steps: While investigations continue, veterinarians are urged to report any new suspected atypical CIRDC cases to state veterinarians. In the absence of clear causative information, it is crucial to conduct diagnostic testing during the acute phase of the disease, before initiating treatment. Delaying diagnostics may yield negative results, and antibiotic treatment may impede bacterial growth and detection. Treatment should be based on the dog's symptoms and their severity, including antibiotics when indicated by clinical and laboratory findings. Fortunately, most dogs, especially those vaccinated against respiratory illnesses, experience mild symptoms. Should Dog Owners Be Worried? Dog owners should exercise caution and be vigilant for symptoms, as periodic outbreaks of CIRDC can occur in canine populations. Many bacteria and viruses can cause CIRDC and multiple agents may be involved. CIRDC cases are more common in dogs at shelters, boarding facilities, or training centers, as opposed to dogs kept in private homes, especially those with limited exposure to other dogs. Symptoms to Watch For: Owners should keep an eye out for coughing, sneezing, nasal and/or eye discharge, and lethargy in their dogs. If owners report observing these symptoms, they should be instructed to seek immediate veterinary care. Veterinarians should isolate these pets for appointments or hospitalized care to prevent the spread of this disease. Also, use proper disinfection techniques on any surfaces or areas a symptomatic pet may have contaminated since this disease is easily spread via aerosolized droplets. How Dog Owners Can Protect Their Pets:

  • Limit Contact: Reduce contact with large numbers of unfamiliar dogs. Increased contact raises the risk of exposure to respiratory pathogens.

  • Avoid Sick Dogs: Steer clear of dogs that appear unwell, exhibiting symptoms like coughing, runny nose, or runny eyes.

  • Keep Sick Dogs Isolated: If your dog becomes ill, keep them at home and consult your veterinarian.

  • Water Bowls: Do not allow your dog to drink from communal water dishes.

  • Vaccinations: Ensure your dog is up to date on appropriate vaccinations.

  • PCR Testing: If your dog falls ill, consider a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test to help determine the causative agent, whether viral or bacterial, if possible.