“Ruff” Respiratory Illness Affecting Dogs: Here’s How To Protect Your Pooch

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Need to Know from SafeWise
  • The canine respiratory illness has been reported in 17 states.
  • Oregon alone has had 200 cases reported.
  • In rare cases, the illness can lead to acute pneumonia, which can be fatal.
Cute golden retriever dog covered with a green blanket due to illness.

Image: smrm1977, iStock

Across the U.S., dogs have been getting sick, and veterinarians and researchers are struggling to determine the reason. The illness, identified as atypical canine infectious respiratory disease complex (aCIRDC), has been reported in 17 states, with more than 200 cases discovered in Oregon alone.

But what is aCIRDC, and how is it different from the usual disease that spreads among pets? Here’s what you need to know about this mysterious illness.

What Is aCIRDC?

If you’ve ever boarded your dog, you’re probably familiar with canine infectious respiratory disease complex (CIRDC), which is more commonly known by the name “kennel cough.” aCIRDC simply adds “atypical” to that term since many of the symptoms are identical. They include:

  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Mucoid discharge

With aCIRDC, the symptoms persist for at least six to eight weeks and don’t respond to typical treatment. A more serious form of aCIRDC has the dog developing chronic pneumonia that doesn’t respond to antibiotics.

In rare cases, the dog develops acute pneumonia that rapidly progresses. In these cases, the dog dies within 24 to 36 hours.

Researching aCIRDC

So far, aCIRDC remains a mystery, but researchers are working diligently to crack it. Tests to match respiratory panels to known viruses have so far been unsuccessful, but that doesn’t necessarily mean a new virus has been introduced. Flaws in the testing process could explain the mismatch.

Experts have also questioned the fact that aCIRDC is resistant to standard kennel cough treatments. If the cause of the illness is a virus, antibiotics won’t work, which could explain why pets aren’t responding.

Still, the cause of aCIRDC remains unknown. Some in the veterinary community believe multiple infections are possible, leading to a “virus soup” that creates a longer-lasting, tougher-to-treat illness than what they’ve seen before.

Protect your pooch with these three tips

Pet safety is a top priority for dog owners, but there are some things you can do to reduce your dog’s chances of catching contagious diseases. Here are some best practices to help keep your dog safe.

1. Assess your risk

When it comes to contagious illnesses, some dogs are more at risk than others. If you have a senior pet or one with health issues, respiratory illnesses could be more life-threatening than if your dog is young and/or in perfect health.

Your pet’s lifestyle also influences risk. If your dog rarely socializes with other pets, the odds of catching a contagious illness from another dog are slight. Dogs are more likely to catch a respiratory illness if they spend time in one or more of these places:

  • Boarding facilities
  • Dog daycares
  • Dog parks
  • Groomers
  • Dog shows

If you’re one of many pet owners who have shifted to mobile grooming in recent years, your risk is lower than if you used a grooming facility. Mobile vets also reduce your pet’s exposure to other dogs.

2. Reduce socialization

Although experts can’t be sure, it’s believed that the virus spreads from dog to dog through droplets in the air. For that reason, dogs are more likely to catch it in enclosed spaces with other dogs. Take a page from the pandemic book and practice social distancing with your dog in the following ways:

  • Avoid dog parks. Yes, socialization is important, but until the cases have cooled, taking a walk together or playing in your back yard might be best.
  • Consider in-home pet care. If you typically board your dog while traveling, this might be a good time to explore in-home options. You can connect with pet sitters on sites like Rover. The National Assocation of Professional Pet Sitters and Pet Sitters International have searchable directories of services.
  • Consult your groomer. If you regularly have your dog groomed, ask what measures are being taken to keep pets safe. If possible, minimize the time your dog stays at the grooming facility before and after being groomed.
  • Keep sick pets home. If you see symptoms in your pet, avoid passing the illness on to other dogs. Let your vet know your dog’s symptoms before making an appointment so your pet can be separated from other animals.

3. Don’t skip the vet

While reducing your pet’s socialization can help with risk, don’t postpone routine vet visits. Getting your pet’s annual shots can help reduce risks. While the Bordetella vaccine, used to help prevent kennel cough, hasn’t proven effective for the atypical version of the virus, having your pet up-to-date on shots is always a good move.

Most importantly, if you see unusual coughing and sneezing from your pet, make an appointment immediately. Catching aCIRDC early can help keep it from progressing.

While keeping your pets safe from illness and other dangers is top priority, it’s still too early to panic. Many experts say we don’t have enough information to know whether this is a new virus or a combination of well-known pet illnesses. You know your dog better than anyone, and working with your vet, you should be able to devise a plan to stay safe.

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