In recent weeks, reports of an unusual respiratory illness affecting dogs in the United States have surfaced, leaving pet owners concerned and curious.
CTV reported this illness has caused "lasting respiratory disease and pneumonia" and it "does not respond to antibiotics."
According to CTV, "the Oregon Department of Agriculture has documented more than 200 cases of the disease since mid-August," and is working with state researchers to find out what's causing the illness. The director of the Oregon Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, Kurt Williams, told CTV that dogs have died, and there's no "clear way to define the disease or test for it."
But, is this illness new and should Canadian pet owners worry?
Yahoo Canada spoke with Dr. Scott Weese, a veterinary internal medicine specialist and the chief of Infection Control at the Ontario Veterinary College, to find out.
What do we know about this respiratory illness in dogs?
Weese emphasized while reports suggest an increase in respiratory disease cases in dogs, it's crucial to recognize these illnesses are not uncommon.
Much like humans experience cold and flu, dogs are susceptible to various respiratory issues.
The challenge lies in determining whether the recent reports indicate a surge in the usual cases, the presence of a new pathogen, or simply heightened awareness, he claimed.
"We don't actually know if there's anything new... We're just wondering if there's more of it happening, but it's a bit unclear," Weese explained.
The symptoms associated with this respiratory illness are typical of such conditions — coughing, runny nose, lethargy. Weese said the majority of dogs exhibit mild symptoms, but a small percentage may develop more severe conditions like pneumonia, and unfortunately, a fraction of those may die.
Why is it difficult to diagnose?
Weese said confirming the exact cause is difficult as veterinarians don't tend to do a lot of testing on dogs with respiratory illnesses. With numerous pathogens capable of triggering respiratory issues in dogs, testing is often impractical.
Moreover, the expert pointed out discussions around a particular disease tend to escalate when attention is drawn to it, potentially leading to an overreaction.
"On any given day, there are 1,000s of dogs in Canada that are coughing from this type of respiratory disease — and that's always been the case. We just don't pay attention to those normally," Weese claimed. "So the question is, are we just paying attention to the background diseases that are there? Or is there something new?"
How prevalent is it in Canada?
Weese said the situation in Canada remains unclear. While sporadic clusters of respiratory diseases have been observed over the years, it's uncertain whether there's a notable increase or if people are simply more aware.
"It seems like we've maybe seen a little bit more respiratory disease in dogs over the past couple of years. But we're not noticing anything that's really consistent, sustained, high overall."
Should Canadian pet owners worry?
The expert emphasized the need for vigilance and common sense, rather than panic.
Weese urged Canadian pet owners to be aware of their dogs' health and to take general precautions.
"If your dog is sick, keep it home, keep your dog away from other dogs. If they look sick, you can talk to your vet about vaccination, as there are some respiratory diseases we can vaccinate against — not all of them."
He explained the best measure is reducing the number of dog contacts without being too restrictive.
"Dogs have to get together at times too. It's just just like dealing with kids, with colds and flu season... There's always some degree of risk, and we try to minimize it as much as we can."
Weese clarified respiratory diseases in dogs are diverse, with terminology sometimes causing confusion. Diseases like pneumonia, often mentioned alongside respiratory illnesses, are outcomes rather than specific diseases, caused by various bacteria and viruses.
As the situation unfolds, Canadian pet owners are advised to stay informed, follow veterinary guidance, and prioritize the well-being of their furry companions through sensible precautions.