Potentially Fatal Mystery Respiratory Illness in Dogs Spreading Across the U.S.

Symptoms of the mysterious illness includes coughing that can last for several weeks, sneezing, nasal or eye discharge, lethargy and more.

(Photo by Alan Crowhurst / Getty Images)

A respiratory illness that can potentially be fatal to dogs has been reported in several states, according to veterinarians around the country. 

According to reports, veterinarians in Oregon, Colorado, Indiana, Illinois, Washington, and more have reported a rise in deaths among dogs who have been stricken with the illness and health officials are working diligently to figure out what's causing the sickness.

Dogs who were hit with the illness will show symptoms including coughing that can last for several weeks, sneezing, nasal or eye discharge, lethargy, blue or purple gums, respiratory issues, and there's a chance the illness won't respond to antibiotic treatment.

"It seems to happen very, very quickly—to go from this cough that's just won't go away ... and then all of a sudden they develop this pneumonia," Dr. Lindsey Ganzer, veterinarian and CEO at North Springs Veterinary Referral Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, told TODAY.com.

Andrea Cantu-Schomus, communications director with the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA), where the first few cases were reported, stated they have received more than 200 case reports from veterinarians since August. 

"Based on the epidemiology of the cases reported at this point, the cases appear to share a viral etiology, but common respiratory diagnostic testing has been largely negative," Cantu-Schomus said in a statement. "A handful of cases do test positive for M. cynos, but that agent is not believed to be the underlying causative agent."

Since there's no indication of what's causing the illness, dog owners are searching for tips to keep their pets safe. According to Amanda Cavanagh, the section head at Small Animal Emergency Service at Colorado State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital, dogs showing signs of a consistent cough should be brought to a veterinarian. 

"Let the vet fully evaluate," Cavanagh said. "We can ultrasound the lungs to see if there is a problem that is related to pneumonia or the contagious pneumonia that seems to be going around. That early vet visit can be so important to establish that relationship with your vet and have them help you take care of your dog and then track how this illness is going to progress."

Latest in Life