By Lisa Kava
While social distancing for humans is thankfully in the past, dog owners are being advised to keep their furry friends at least six paws apart from other dogs right now.
Local vets are raising awareness about a new canine respiratory illness that has affected dogs in fifteen states as of December 1st. Vets around the country are perplexed by the disease, which resembles kennel cough, and has not been responsive to antibiotics. The illness has been confirmed in California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.
Although there have not been any cases identified in New York state to date, Upper West Side vets want dog owners to take precautions, especially with the upcoming holiday season when many plan to travel with or board their pets. The illness has led to pneumonia, hospitalization, and death in some cases, according to an email sent to clients by Riverside Veterinary Care at 428 Columbus Avenue.
“Dogs have been presenting in veterinary clinics throughout the country with coughing and lethargy,” Dr. Seth Bishop of Brilliant Veterinary Care, at 641 Amsterdam Avenue, wrote to West Side Rag. “At this time, the causative agent of this infection is unknown. This current strain appears to have a higher risk of causing viral pneumonia.” Other symptoms include nasal discharge, eye discharge, and sneezing, Dr. Bishop said. “It is not yet known whether the condition is a viral or bacterial infection,” Dr. Amy Attas of City Pets The House Call Vets, wrote to her clients. “Without knowing at least that much, specific treatment is difficult.”
While vets do not want dog owners to panic, they say preventative action is important. Dr. Bishop and his colleagues recommend dog owners avoid or limit time in dog parks, and consider home grooming rather than a grooming facility. He urges caution and common sense. “Do not allow your dog to drink from public dog bowls,” he said. He recommends keeping distance from other dogs for the time being. “We don’t technically know how it is transmitted yet, so for now avoid any close proximity until we know more.”
Riverside Veterinary Care also advises dog owners to limit dog-to-dog contact, especially in large group settings. “Dog parks, day care, and boarding facilities are high-risk environments.”
The vets recommend that dogs are up to date on their vaccinations. Any dog showing symptoms of this illness should be examined, and owners should keep a symptomatic dog away from other dogs. “If your dog does develop a cough, please do not have them interact with other dogs until at least one week after coughing resolves,” Dr. Bishop said.
A current National Geographic article suggests that younger dogs, older dogs, and dogs with chronic conditions could be at higher risk. The first outbreak of the disease occurred in New Hampshire during the summer of 2022, the article says. Dr. David Needle, a senior veterinary pathologist and professor at the University of New Hampshire, began to investigate, but did not find a known pathogen. As the virus spread to other states, Dr. Needle’s team expanded their testing and investigation. “We are about three, four, five, six weeks from knowing a lot more,” he says in the article.
In the meantime, dog owners can recall and apply familiar COVID-19 preventative strategies with their dogs — albeit without the masks.
We’ll keep you posted.
To receive WSR’s free email newsletter, click here.