The Next Big Bug: A Canine Respiratory Mystery

The Next Big Bug - Canine Respiratory Mystery

The increasing incidents of respiratory illnesses in dogs across the nation has caught the attention of the veterinary community as well as concerned dog owners. Veterinary colleges, diagnostic laboratories, state Departments of Agriculture, and the Department of Agriculture’s National Veterinary Services Laboratory (USDA NVSL) are working diligently to determine the exact cause of the illness.

What is it?

According to a publication by Purdue University’s College of Veterinary Medicine published Wednesday, November 22, 2023, “It is not yet clear whether there is something new causing cough in dogs,” as the signs reported by owners and veterinarians are the same as those routinely seen in dogs with infectious respiratory disease. At this time, a viral etiology is suspected due to the behavior of the illness, however, early metagenomic work conducted by New Hampshire Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory didn’t identify an RNA or DNA virus, nor any typical fungal or bacterial respiratory pathogens. (Keep in mind, these are preliminary findings; more testing and analysis are being conducted daily.)

What we do know for sure is this mysterious illness is a respiratory syndrome, meaning the group of those infected are showing similar clinical signs, all consistent with a respiratory disease. Unfortunately, none of the standard treatments for common respiratory pathogens are effective against this new “bug”.

Signs & Symptoms

Signs of illness are similar to those of other canine respiratory diseases:

  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Labored breathing
  • Nose or eye discharge

Your dog might also experience fever, lethargy, and/or decreased appetite.

What Can Dog Owners Do?

At this time, veterinary professionals are urging vigilance, early reporting, and prevention. If you suspect your dog is showing signs of respiratory disease, contact your veterinarian immediately. “Because of the broad spectrum of potential respiratory disease, there is no one-size-fits-all recommendation [for treatment], and working with a veterinarian is the best way to ensure that owners have accurate information that is appropriate for their situation,” said Andrea Cantu-Schomas of the Oregon Department of Agriculture.

Additional levels of precaution come with preventative measures:

  • Ensure your dog is up to date on vaccinations, especially if he or she frequents dog parks, boarding or daycare facilities, dog shows, play groups, etc. Your veterinarian might suggest the “kennel cough” vaccine (Bordetella) and the canine influenza virus (CIV) vaccine, as both have been proven effective against respiratory disease in dogs.
    • Side Note: Always ask what vaccinations the boarding business, doggy day care, groomer, etc. require prior to check-in. Not only will this ensure your dog is ready, but will also give you a general idea of what other canine clients might be bringing into the building. Visit Candlewood Veterinary Clinic’s “Back to Boarding Basics” blog post for more tips and tricks regarding safe boarding.
  • If your dog shows signs of respiratory infection (i.e., sneezing or coughing), keep your pet away from other dogs. At this time, it’s suspected this disease is transmitted the same way as many other infectious respiratory infections in dogs: close contact and airborne respiratory droplets. Unfortunately, this allows for easy spread of the pathogen. 
  • If any of your dog’s favorite canine companions are ill, cancel the playdate! As important as it is to keep your sick dog from other animals, it’s equally important to avoid situations in which your dog might be exposed. 

Again, keep in mind new information about this illness is discovered everyday. Please check back for updates!


Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine:

AVMA News – Oregon Dealing with Respiratory Illness Incidents in Dogs:

New Hampshire Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory:

Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine: