The first reports of a respiratory disease spreading among dogs came from a single US state this summer, according to US media. A week ago, there were seven states with confirmed cases. And this week on Tuesday, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) already reports confirmation of expansion to 14 states.
According to veterinarians, the disease is similar to common respiratory diseases in dogs and is first manifested by coughing and discharge from the eyes. In a more advanced stage, according to NBC News, the disease turns into an inflammation of the airways, against which antibiotics or any other available treatment do not work. Subsequently, chronic and acute pneumonia can occur, which can lead to the death of the animal.
Neither the number of cases nor the number of deaths are available. In Oregon, the media, citing veterinarians and shelters, have reported 200 cases of infection since mid-August. However, these are not official data either, and according to USA Today, there are no specific numbers at all from other states.
However, deaths do not appear to be frequent. For example, University of New Hampshire veterinary pathologist David Needle, quoted by USA Today, said he was only aware of deaths in dogs that had other health problems. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Inspection Service also said the deaths were “rare.”
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Veterinarians in the US advise breeders not to wait and seek veterinary examination if their dog shows any of the symptoms. To have dogs vaccinated against known diseases, avoid dog parks and hotels or any places with a high concentration of dogs.
Scientists already have two specific suspicions as to what could be causing the disease.
The first of them is a “strange bacteria” discovered by scientists from the University of New Hampshire while examining several dozen samples from dogs infected last year directly in the state of New Hampshire and this year in Massachusetts.
According to scientists, the hitherto unknown bacterium is strangely small, which also applies to its genome, making it difficult to find and sequence. After a lengthy search, the researchers were able to find it in 21 of the 30 dogs infected in New Hampshire and believe that it originates from the microbiome in the dog’s gut.
Whether it is really the causative agent of the disease, however, is not at all certain yet.
In Colorado, specifically at Colorado State University, scientists are investigating the suspected virus, which was also found in the samples of a number of infected dogs.
In other words, it is not yet clear whether the disease is of bacterial, viral or other origin.
- Mysterious canine disease remains a hot topic in the United States. There are no reports of expansion to another country yet.
- States with confirmed cases include California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.
According to Czech pharmacist and veterinarian Kateřina Návojová Horáčková there is still too little information for any conclusions. According to her, the discovery of a new pathogen is generally an extremely rare event, and reports similar to those we can see now in the American national media often end with the discovery that it is actually a known disease that has manifested itself more than before, or has a new variant.
“Just recently, a similar case was solved with cats in Poland. There, it was finally discovered that it was basically one of the variants of bird flu and that it was cats that ate hunting or raw meat,” Návojová Horáčková recalled the case from this summer.
According to American media, the ongoing search makes it difficult to compare the disease to common respiratory diseases. In addition, the veterinary sector has, of course, incomparably smaller resources compared to the healthcare system serving people. According to Návojová Horáčková, the fact that veterinarians usually specialize in specific types of animals and many of them may only have a basic knowledge of dog diseases can also contribute to the chaos.
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In the Czech Republic, according to the veterinarian, the system works in such a way that there is a list of compulsorily reportable diseases that veterinarians must report to the State Veterinary Administration. However, warnings about the spread of diseases that do not appear on this list and which are brought to the attention of veterinarians voluntarily, for example when they become convinced that the spread is significant, are not an exception.
“In the Czech Republic, we also have good laboratory diagnostics and are able to detect many things. It doesn’t have to be like that elsewhere,” said Návojová Horáčková, adding that the alpha and omega in the field of veterinary care is its price and how much of the population can afford it financially.
According to Návojová Horáčková, the mechanism of spread of respiratory diseases in dogs is the same as in humans, and the season of strong spread is usually in autumn and spring, when there are large temperature fluctuations. Transmission between states, especially those between which travel is primarily by air, is logically slower compared to human spread, since people travel less often with dogs on such long journeys.