A mysterious respiratory illness is spreading among dogs in the US that veterinarians say does not respond to antibiotics.
"We don't know what's causing it, and we can't say definitively how it's being transmitted," Lindsey Ganzer, a vet in Colorado, told The Washington Post. "We just don't know enough right now."
So little is known, in fact, that the disease doesn't even have a name yet. While scientists scramble to understand it, the disease has spread rapidly to hundreds of dogs in at least five states, including Oregon, Colorado, and New Hampshire. The Oregon Department of Agriculture says it's received more than 200 reports of the disease since mid-August.
Many infected dogs are left with chronic respiratory disease and pneumonia, and some of the pneumonia cases have made dogs extremely sick in just 24 to 36 hours, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.
In most cases, though, the first symptom to arise is a cough that could last several weeks. Other reported symptoms include sneezing, nasal and eye discharge, and all-around lethargy, The Associated Press reports. Some dogs have even died, but because of the uncertainty surrounding the disease, the exact number of deaths is impossible to pin down.
The disease has left many dog owners feeling helpless. Mary Heckemeyer of Colorado, who owns four dogs, told the WP how her six-year-old Siberian Husky named Thunder had to spend two weeks in treatment, costing her $16,900.
At first, Thunder appeared to improve. But just after being discharged, he had to be rushed back to the emergency room, where he soon died of respiratory problems caused by the disease. Heckemeyer's three remaining dogs are all still sick.
"He was so young," she told the WP. "… For this to just come on so quickly — it's just so hard."
David Needle, a veterinary researcher at the New Hampshire Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, told the WP that researchers still haven't been able to pinpoint the disease's cause, but believes we'll know "much more" in three weeks as his lab collects more samples from across the US.
"We found no known viruses, bacteria or fungus that were known pathogens," Needle told the WP. A colleague added that they did find a "funky little bacteria" in 21 of the 30 animals they initially sequenced, though its function is unclear.
Until more is known, vets recommend keeping your furry friends away from other owners' dogs, and to make sure their vaccines are up to date.
"I would strongly recommend that people avoid boarding facilities, doggy day care, anything that's going to be a high volume of dogs in a space," Ganzer told the WP.
"I know it's going to be hard with the holidays coming up, but trying to find somebody that will come to your house and take care of your dog is a better option."
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