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1st case of mystery dog respiratory illness confirmed in Washington state

Two cases of an unusual and unidentified canine respiratory infection in dogs have been confirmed in Washington state, and the state’s Department of Agriculture continues to collect information on 14 other reports, the department said Friday.

The infectious illness has been reported in about a dozen states, including Oregon, where more than 200 cases have been reported over the last three months.

The confirmed cases of atypical canine infectious respiratory disease complex in Washington are in Clark and Snohomish counties, the Washington state Department of Agriculture said. Both dogs have recovered.

The other 14 reported cases that are not confirmed include seven in King County, two in Island County and one each in Pierce and Skamania counties. Spokane County has had three cases reported, all linked to a single animal rescue organization.

The 16 total possible cases have been reported since August, according to the Washington state Department of Agriculture.

The Oregon cases have mostly been clustered along the Interstate 5 corridor, where much of the state’s population lives, but there has been at least one case reported in the Pendleton area of Eastern Oregon, according to a map of cases released by the Oregon Department of Agriculture.

“Fortunately, the current illness of concern has a high recovery rate with very few mortalities reported and there is no indication of a public health risk,” said Amber Itle, the Washington state veterinarian in a blog post Friday.

But a small percentage of dogs do become seriously ill, according to the Washington state Department of Agriculture.

A pair of dogs play together at the Paws-abilities Place dog park in south Richland. The Washington state veterinarian is urging dog owners to protect their dogs as an unusual canine respiratory infection that is potentially fatal spreads in the United States.
A pair of dogs play together at the Paws-abilities Place dog park in south Richland. The Washington state veterinarian is urging dog owners to protect their dogs as an unusual canine respiratory infection that is potentially fatal spreads in the United States.

The American Veterinary Medical Association said on its website that symptoms of the unknown canine respiratory disease may include chronic inflammation of the trachea that lasts six to eight weeks and is not helped by antibiotics.

Some dogs develop chronic pneumonia that does not respond to antimicrobial treatment, it said. Others may develop acute pneumonia that rapidly becomes severe and often lead to death in as little as 24 to 36 hours.

To confirm the atypical or mystery dog respiratory illness, the Washington state Department of Agriculture looks for cases that display common respiratory symptoms for which an identifiable cause of the disease cannot be found.

“We do not want to miss something new or novel but we must first exclude known causes of disease,” said Minden Buswell, Washington state field veterinarian.

At least nine different bacteria and viruses can cause respiratory infections in dogs, it said.

Common respiratory symptoms include harsh, dry coughing fits and retching and gagging. If the illness progresses to pneumonia dogs may have little appetite, lethargy, fever, nasal discharge and respiratory distress at rest.

No cases are known to have been transmitted from dogs to people.

Mystery disease risk factors

Dog risk factors that have been associated with the mystery respiratory illness include:

  • Being an elderly dog or a puppy.

  • Being unvaccinated or not up-to-date on vaccinations.

  • Being in kennels, doggie daycares or boarding facilities.

  • Being frequently around dogs with unknown vaccination or travel histories.

  • Being a breed with shortened skull bones, giving the face and nose a pushed in appearance.

  • Being under stress, such as from travel or boarding.

What dog owners can do

The Washington state Department of Agriculture recommends these steps to dog owners and businesses that work with dogs:

  • Make sure dogs are fully vaccinated for all canine respiratory diseases.

  • Avoid congregating with other dogs.

  • Keep dogs away from sick dogs.

  • People should wash their hands after being exposed to sick dogs or boarding facilities.

  • Kennels should be strict about not admitting sick dogs.

  • A veterinarian should be contacted if a dog shows signs of illness.

  • If a dog is sick, laboratory testing will be required to learn more.

Itle encourages veterinarians to report deaths or serious illnesses in dogs or other animals to the state at bit.ly/WAanimalreporting.