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MDARD and MSU VDL Encourage Dog Owners to Work with Their Veterinarians to Best Protect their Pets from Respiratory Illnesses

At this time, MDARD has not received any reports of atypical canine infectious respiratory illness in Michigan dogs

LANSING, MI — As reports and concerns over an atypical canine infectious respiratory illness affecting dogs across the nation continue to grow, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) and the Michigan State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (MSU VDL) encourage dog owners to remain vigilant regarding their pet's health and to work closely with their veterinarian if they notice signs of illness. There are multiple causes of infectious respiratory diseases in dogs, many of which can be prevented or minimized through routine vaccination or timely veterinary care.  

"While the exact cause of this illness remains unknown, taking some basic steps to prevent a dog's exposure to harmful germs can go a long way to protecting their overall health,"  said State Veterinarian Nora Wineland, DVM, MS, DACVPM. "If owners notice respiratory symptoms (such as coughing, sneezing, or nasal discharge) in their dogs, it is important to reach out to their veterinarian early on in their animal's illness so diagnostic testing can be completed and an appropriate course of treatment can begin."

In general, the illness is contagious, spreading among dogs that have contact with other dogs. The only way to distinguish between the multiple causes of infectious respiratory disease in dogs is through early diagnostic testing. Signs of the disease include coughing, sneezing, nasal and/or eye discharge, fever, loss of appetite, and lethargy. Coughing may persist for weeks to months, and severe forms of the disease can progress to life-threatening pneumonia.

To date, suspected cases of the disease have been reported in several states. For a case to be considered suspect for this illness, diagnostic testing is required to rule out other common causes. If veterinarians are interested in pursuing testing for an animal, they can contact the Michigan State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory for advice and assistance at 517-353-1683.

Because common respiratory illnesses (i.e., kennel cough) in dogs is generally self-limiting, veterinarians may not routinely perform diagnostic testing. However, performing testing early on can serve multiple purposes, said MSU Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory director Kimberly Dodd, DVM, MS, PhD. If a more common cause of illness is found, it may give owners peace of mind. Based on the diagnosis, clinicians can better predict the course of illness and administer antibiotics when warranted. If routine diagnostics are negative, having acute samples can help us as we try to identify the cause of this atypical respiratory illness.

To best keep Michigan's dogs safe and healthy, MDARD strongly encourages owners to:

  • Work with their veterinarian to ensure their dog is up to date on routine vaccinations.
  • Make sure their dog is fully vaccinated before interacting with other dogs.
  • Avoid food and water bowls shared by multiple unknown dogs.
  • Contact their veterinarian if their dog is exhibiting any signs of illness and keep their dog at home and away from other dogs.
  • Keep their dog away from dogs that are sick or whose vaccination status is unknown.

Also, MDARD is encouraging animal shelter and kennel staff to follow their intake and vaccination protocols when bringing in new dogs and continue to follow required isolation protocols and recommended cleaning/disinfection procedures for surfaces and equipment.

MDARD and the MSU VDL will continue to monitor the situation surrounding this disease and will provide updates as more is learned. If dogs are exhibiting signs of respiratory illness, it is best to keep them at home and away from other dogs and contact your veterinarian.

Also, veterinarians are advised to contact MDARD at 800-292-3939 if unusual or reportable conditions in animals are seen.

For more information regarding this atypical canine infectious respiratory illness, please contact your veterinarian or visit the American Veterinary Medical Association's website.


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