WA state veterinarian urges caution as mysterious illness in dogs spreads in U.S.

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 cause of the infectious illness remains a mystery but it appears to be caused by a virus that has yet to be identified.

There have been more than 200 cases of the illness reported in dogs in Oregon in the past three months, but no cases had been confirmed in Washington state as of Friday.

This is the time of year that dogs tend to get respiratory illnesses, and their owners should take extra precautions, including keeping them away from areas where dogs gather and making sure they are vaccinated, according to the Washington state Department of Agriculture.

“The best way to protect your animals is to ensure they are up to date on their vaccinations,” said Amber Itle, the Washington state veterinarian. “By working together, we can stay ahead of any potential outbreaks and keep our furry companions healthy and happy.”

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

People whose dogs appear ill should contact their veterinarian.

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 pneumonia, which may become severe in 24 to 36 hours, according to the Oregon Veterinary Medical Association. Other dogs develop chronic pneumonia.

The organization suggests “caution rather than worry.”

Periodic outbreaks of canine infectious respiratory disease occur, it said. At least nine different bacteria and viruses can cause respiratory infections in dogs, it said.

To prevent respiratory infections, it recommends reducing contact with large numbers of unknown dogs, keeping your dog away from sick dogs and avoiding water bowls shared by multiple dogs.

There also are vaccinations a veterinarian may recommend to protect against canine respiratory illnesses, including canine influenza, Bordetella and parainfluenza.

In addition to Oregon, the unknown canine illness also has been confirmed in Colorado and New Hampshire, according to The Associated Press.

TIME magazine says there are anecdotal reports of additional possible cases in Washington, California, the Northeast and the Midwest.

In Oregon the cases have mostly been in the Portland area and along the Interstate 5 corridor to Eugene, but there has also been at least one report in Pendleton.