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‘Our overarching message is not to panic’: Mysterious dog illness reported in Massachusetts

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The cause of the Oregon wave earlier this month with more than 200 canine respiratory cases is still unknown. 

Owners bring their dogs to a park in Los Angeles on Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022. Richard Vogel / AP, File

A mysterious dog illness, which has been circulating in Oregon for months, has spread to more than a dozen states including Massachusetts, according to reports. The respiratory illness is fatal in rare cases, and experts are urging dog owners to stay calm but wary.

The American Veterinary Medical Association reported earlier this month that the cause of the Oregon wave with more than 200 canine respiratory cases is still unknown. 

Additional cases have been reported in California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington, USA Today reported on Monday.

The University of New Hampshire’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory is working to identify the unknown pathogen, according to their website. 

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“This is a respiratory syndrome, which means that there is a group of animals with similar clinical signs — in this case, upper respiratory disease that is resistant to standard treatments and does not result in positive tests for common respiratory pathogens,” their update page for the outbreak said. 

Erin Doyle, the senior vice president of animal welfare and veterinary services with the Animal Rescue League of Boston, said the organization hasn’t seen anything unusual, but it can be difficult to keep track of the potential cases.

“It can be a little hard to say for sure what is new illness versus what is regular respiratory disease in dogs, what we commonly call kennel cough,” she said, “but as of this time, we’re keeping an eye out for it.”

The symptoms can be mild, similar to kennel cough, and include symptoms of nasal or eye discharge and in some cases a low-grade fever, the MSPCA-Angell said in a statement.

Kiko Bracker, the director of MSPCA-Angell’s Animal Medical Center emergency service, said in a statement that the mystery illness is a minor concern, but dog owners looking to be extra careful should avoid dog parks, dog boarding kennels, and sharing water bowls.

“Fatalities across the country are extremely rare, and the veterinary community by and large characterizes this as minor,” according to the MSPCA’s statement. 

Doyle agreed, saying that while animal welfare organizations are aware of the outbreak, “our overarching message is not to panic.”

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“For most dogs, if it is just a cough, or runny nose or runny eyes — similar symptoms to a cold in people — it is similar to a cold in people, and it usually resolves just fine on its own,” she said. 

Doyle said dog owners should keep their vet in the loop once a cold develops, and monitor their fur babies if they are particularly lethargic, quiet, and not acting like themselves. 

The respiratory illness can quickly become pneumonia, according to the AVMA, which is the major concern for owners with young or old dogs, or dogs with preexisting conditions. 

“It’s not dissimilar to respiratory disease in people like the flu,” Doyle said. “As of right now, there is no reason to suspect that if your dog does get sick that they are more likely to die.”

Source: Boston Globe

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