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More and more dogs are suffering from mystery respiratory illness that can be fatal

Veterinarians warn about mystery dog illness
Veterinarians warn about mystery dog illness 02:27

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Our pets are a part of the family for so many of us – and now, a new mystery dog illness is causing concern for pet owners.

In rare cases, the infectious respiratory disease can even be fatal. Antibiotics do not appear to be effective against it, and not much is known about the cause or how it spreads.

CBS 2's Charlie De Mar spoke Monday night with a local veterinarian about what dog owners should know.

Dr. Donna Solomon, owner of the Animal Medical Center of Chicago, says she has seen an increase in the number of dogs coming in with respiratory issues. She said right now, cases are mild – but she worries that could soon change.

We also met a dog who is suffering from the illness. At first glance Champ is just like any other active dog running around the yard. But wait until you hear him cough.

"He's had like coughing fits - where it's like he's struggling to breathe, and gasping for air," said Maria Brezak.

Brezak said for about the last month, Champ – her Jack Russell corgi – has been dealing with a deep and persistent cough.

"Like I've been scared that he's going to die, because he's struggling to breathe so much," Brezak said.

Brezak said antibiotics did not work, and her vet suspects Champ is dealing with a mysterious respiratory illness first discovered in Oregon – where at least 200 cases have been reported since August. Some infected dogs have developed pneumonia.

"They come in coughing," said Dr. Solomon. "They're fairly active. Their appetite is present. But they just have a deep, dry cough."

Solomon said there has been an increase in the number of dogs coming in with respiratory problems. Right now, Solomon says the symptoms have not been severe.

"We don't know much about it," Solomon said. "So the question is, what is the agent that's causing it?"

Solomon recommends limiting exposure to other dogs, and making sure your pets' vaccinations are up to date.

Brezak said she wants their dog owners to take the illness seriously, and seek help if needed.

"I had no idea when he first started coughing that this was a thing," she said. "It's been very hard seeing him like that, and not being able to do much for him."

Until more is known about this disease, Dr. Solomon suggests avoiding dog parks, staying away from communal water bowls, and refraining sharing toys. If your dog does develop a cough, Dr. Solomon advised checking it out with your vet.

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