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Mysterious dog illness with respiratory symptoms detected in Pennsylvania: officials

Vets in Philadelphia area on high alert due to mystery dog illness
Vets in Philadelphia area on high alert due to mystery dog illness 02:14

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Cases of the mysterious respiratory illness affecting dogs have been reported in Pennsylvania, the commonwealth's Department of Agriculture confirmed to CBS News Philadelphia on Thursday.

The illness, which does not respond to antibiotics, has been detected in at least 15 states, including Maryland, New Hampshire and Oregon.

Veterinarians in Pennsylvania have been alerted about the disease, which includes symptoms of lethargy, coughing, sneezing and eye and nasal discharges.

"Some states have reported dogs staying ill for long periods, not responding to treatment, and rarely, dogs with rapid onset of severe respiratory signs that have progressed to death," Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture spokesperson Shannon Powers said in an emailed statement. "Dogs with preexisting chronic respiratory illness may be more likely to develop pneumonia. Veterinarians are working to pinpoint the cause and identify effective treatments."

READ MORE: Hundreds of dogs sickened with mysterious, potentially fatal illness in several U.S. states

Powers says dog owners should monitor their pup's health and contact a veterinarian if they show symptoms of the illness. The veterinarian can recommend lab testing which can detect the disease.

There is no count of how many dogs in the state have been reported ill, because most of the lab testing is done in private and the treatment is done by private veterinarians.

Vets and lab technicians are still working to determine what virus or bacteria causes the disease - hence the "mystery" moniker. Some of the cases with pneumonia progress quickly, making dogs sick within 24 to 36 hours.

At Penn Vet, no dogs have come in with a respiratory illness with no known cause, said Dr. Deborah Mandell, who works in the emergency department.

"We're not sure if it's truly a mystery illness," Mandell said. "Nothing so far has cultured anything specifically, so we're just going with the standard same canine infectious respiratory disease complex that we're used to seeing."

"Many, many institutions are doing studies to try to make sure that it's nothing we have to be more concerned about," Mandell added.

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture also provided tips on keeping your dog healthy. Those tips include:

  • Keeping dogs away from large gatherings
  • Keeping your dog away from sick dogs showing signs of a respiratory illness
  • Check with a kennel or groomer about their vaccination requirements and if they have had any sick dogs recently
  • Don't let dogs drink out of public water bowls or drinking fountains
  • If your dog is sick, keep them isolated from other dogs and call your veterinarian for care
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