Mystery canine illness has Missouri veterinarians, pet owners on high alert

Veterinarians are issuing warnings about a mysterious respiratory illness spreading in the U.S. among dogs.

Atypical Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease (aCIRD) is the name many veterinarians are using for the infection. The LSU School of Veterinary Medicine says symptoms include “coughing, sneezing, and serous or mucoid oculonasal discharge.”

The direct cause and origin of the illness remain unknown. Dogs often experience respiratory illnesses, but if aCIRD progresses to pneumonia, it becomes resistant to antibiotics and can be fatal.

While Missouri hasn’t had any confirmed cases, Ohio-based veterinarian Dr. Angela Beal suggests taking early precautions. 

“This isn’t necessarily a reportable disease, so we’re probably not hearing about all cases,” Beal told The Heartlander.

“Officially it has reached 16 states. It could be a completely new bacteria or virus causing it, or it could be a variant of a virus or bacteria that we’re already familiar with. Just to be on the safe side, let’s make sure vaccines are up-to-date, especially including vaccines that protect against respiratory illnesses like kennel cough and canine influenza.”

CBS has provided its viewers with an updated map of states with official aCIRD diagnosis. Click here to view it. 

Dr. Beal says the five-way vaccine safeguards dogs from common and risky diseases, but some dogs may be more vulnerable. The five-way vaccine, as Beal notes, may not prevent aCIRD.

The risk is greater for brachycephalic breeds due to their short snouts. Pugs, Brussels Griffons, boxers, English bulldogs and French bulldogs are among the breeds that may experience more respiratory illnesses. If canines with compromised immune systems contract aCIRD, their risk is elevated.

Veterinarians say that, as with human respiratory illnesses, the illness is spreading through contact with aerosolized droplets from infected dogs.

“What’s different about this one is that the symptoms tend to last longer than a typical respiratory infection. Most of the time, if a dog gets a respiratory infection, it might be sick for a week or two, just like if we get a cold. But with this illness, it is dragging along for six to eight weeks. With most dogs, the illness runs its course and they get better without much of an issue.”

Beal advises against using boarding facilities this holiday season, and instead suggests sending your dog to a family member or friend. During walks and other outings, owners should also make sure their dogs avoid contact with other canines.

“A boarding facility is the perfect environment for respiratory infection to be passed around. If they have to go to a boarding facility, make sure your dog is up to date on the vaccines. I would want to make sure my dog is going to a boarding facility that requires all dogs to be up to date on their vaccines and has good ventilation and cleaning procedures.”

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