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Mystery illness spreading among dogs nationwide

Mystery illness spreading among dogs nationwide
Mystery illness spreading among dogs nationwide 01:52

GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn.  A mysterious sickness is spreading among dogs. Hundreds of pets have caught the potentially deadly respiratory illness in more than 10 states. While it hasn't turned up in Minnesota yet, dog owners can take steps to keep their pets healthy over the holidays.

"If there's a disease moving around in multiple states, if it's not here, it's probably passed through here or its going to come here at some point," Animal Humane Society's Director of Veterinarian Medicine Dr. Graham Brayshaw said.

Until more is known about the illness, Brayshaw says there's no need for pet owners to panic. 

"Fortunately, the signs we're seeing are consistent with what we refer to as kennel cough. The worrying side of it is that we don't know what's causing it," Brayshaw said.

The inability to pinpoint the illness makes it difficult for veterinarians to know how it spreads and how best to treat it, Brayshaw said. 

Symptoms that have been reported include a cough, eye or nasal discharge, fever, lethargy and loss of appetite. In some cases, the illness has progressed into pneumonia and death. There is no official case count nationwide. 

"Make sure they stay hydrated. They can get secondary bacterial infections, so sometimes antibiotics are necessary. If you are worried about your dog having these signs, reach out to your veterinarian, we have treatments we can do to support your dog through the virus," he said.

Minnesota's state veterinarian Dr. Brian Hoefs said his office is monitoring the illness too. He said the increase in holiday travel to other states adds to the risk of illness spreading. 

"Whenever there is a mysterious disease we should be concerned, but the message really is to make sure your dog is healthy," Hoefs said.

Dog owners can help keep their pets healthy year-round by making sure vaccines are up to date, keeping sick dogs away from others, and keeping an eye out for symptoms of respiratory illness. 

Dr. Brayshaw says they're prepared, having dealt with a canine influenza outbreak last spring. 

"We always have respiratory disease at low levels in shelters, but we also have a really good processes for isolation, identification and protocols for animals to clear and get out of that, so with those in place we feel very comfortable," he said. 

The United States Department of Agriculture is working with multiple states and labs to investigate what's causing the illness.

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