Greetings fellow pet owners, Dr Jess here from Urban Vet Associates

I wanted to touch base with you about the newly emerging canine respiratory illness. As professionals, we are working diligently to identify the causative agent of this cough phenomenon that is taking hold in the United States. 

We're seeing this disease primarily emerging in patients who are attending dog parks, daycare, boarding facilities, or any place where there's a congregation of multiple dogs in one space.  The challenge is that we don't know for sure what this is.

Multiple labs throughout the US are currently working on a PCR or polymerase chain reaction trying to make an identification of this so that a vaccination can be developed. This reminds me an awful lot of the outbreak of K9 influenza that we saw here in the Chicago area back in 2013/2014 where we were seeing very asymptomatic dogs quickly progressing to severe illness.

Initially, patients are presenting with a mild cough or some mild lethargy, and it appears very similar to kennel cough in dogs, which generally is any virus or bacteria that can cause a little cold. Unfortunately, with this particular emerging disease, we're seeing these patients progress to a very severe level of illness within 24 to 48 hours of initial onset. Once the patient starts coughing, they go from a mild cough and a little bit of lethargy to severe coughing. Coughing so hard that they're throwing up experiencing a fever, and nausea, and some of them are catching secondary pneumonia.

It does appear that this is a bacterial disease, not a virus, but the bacteria is much smaller than normal. Currently, the research is calling it a funky bacterium, and we're waiting on some of this new additional information. The best way to protect your pet is to keep them away from animals that you don't know exclusively. At the veterinary hospital, we are being extremely diligent and taking barrier precautions for patients who are presenting with cough.

We're limiting the staff that are handling those animals by having them come in through a separate entrance directly to our isolation ward for exams and treatments. We are also disinfecting all of our hospital surfaces on a routine basis. It's not advised to skip appointments for your pets at this point. The animals are not interacting with one another while they're here in the hospital. We do have, an isolation ward for patients who present with upper respiratory or coughing clinical signs so that we can keep them separate from the remainder of the animals in the building.

Stay tuned, and try to keep your pets up to date on their vaccines for flu, and bordetella, which is part of the kennel cough complex, any sort of respiratory disease that we can prevent will decrease the clinical signs of patients that may contract this new illness. Especially since our weather has been particularly warm, I know lots of families are still attending the dog park to get their patients out for exercise and a little bit of mental stimulation. If you're doing that, please use caution, be extra vigilant about what's presenting in terms of your patient's health over this time, and please call us if you have any questions or concerns.

We at Urban Vet are always here and always happy to help. We look forward to seeing you soon.