Park City vet thinks he’s treated dogs with mysterious respiratory illness

Nov 29, 2023, 7:02 PM | Updated: Nov 30, 2023, 12:24 pm

PARK CITY — A Utah veterinarian said his clinic has seen and treated dogs that supposedly have the mysterious, respiratory illness showing up in canines around the United States.

Dr. Carl Prior of the Park City Animal Clinic said outbreaks of kennel cough, a general term applied to upper respiratory infections in dogs, are common. He said this summer was different: doctors at the practice saw a few mysterious cases in August.

Prior said that these cases, instead of simply affecting the trachea — causing a “honking” cough — more closely resembled mild-to-moderate pneumonia. He said they were not responding well to the antibiotics typically prescribed for kennel cough.

Prior suspects that these are cases of the mysterious canine respiratory illness reported in at least 14 other states, but not officially confirmed in Utah.

Several different pathogens, viruses, bacteria and organisms can cause upper respiratory infections, Prior said, and they are all grouped under the label of kennel cough.

According to Prior, it can be difficult to diagnose an illness, especially without a test. Researchers are still trying to figure out the cause of this new illness, and then develop a test for it.

“What we’re doing if we have a suspected case is, we’re calling the laboratories that we send our samples to say, ‘Hey, how would you like us to handle these samples? Where do you want us to send them?'” Prior said. “They’ll do genetic tests for different pathogens, trying to narrow down what exactly is causing it.”

He said he’s not currently seeing an uptick in these cases.

Prior said the dogs he has treated are recovering.

“We’ve had some in the middle where they’ve had severe pneumonia, more of a chronic type of pneumonia,” Prior said.

Prior’s advice to the public is simple: “Keep sick animals home, away from other dogs. Stay current on your vaccinations for your pets. If you have an older dog or a puppy that may be immunocompromised, you may want to limit what they’re allowed to interact with and not allow them to share toys or food.”

Dr. Daniel Christensen, Utah’s state veterinarian, said the mysterious respiratory illness affecting dogs around the country was brought up in a conference with other state veterinarians about two to three weeks ago.

According to Christensen, the defining characteristic of this disease is its persistence.

“At this point, there is no evidence that this is more or less fatal than any other respiratory virus,” Christensen said.

Christensen said the suspicion is that it’s a viral disease, but it’s not confirmed. He also noted that antibiotics don’t seem to help much in these cases.

“In most cases where a dog comes to a clinic and is treated for a respiratory illness, they’re not going very deep and diagnosing a very specific virus or bacteria, most of the time,” he said.

Christensen said there haven’t been any confirmed cases in Utah so far. He’s asking vets to follow up closely on cases involving respiratory illnesses in dogs and report those that last for several weeks.

“If it’s persistent, more like six to eight weeks, those are the things we’re asking veterinarians to report to us so we can get a handle on it,” he said.

He said, when the first case is confirmed in Utah, it’s nothing to be majorly concerned about.

“This isn’t something to worry about,” he said. “If it does eventually come to Utah, we’re already seeing respiratory cases like we do every year this time of year — nothing to be too concerned about, just be cautious.”

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Park City vet thinks he’s treated dogs with mysterious respiratory illness