Tennessee Veterinary Medical Association Offers Guidance on Unknown Canine Respiratory Disease

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The Tennessee Veterinary Medical Association (TVMA) has compiled the following overview related to a yet-to-be-named respiratory disease that has affected canines in the United States, with cases recently identified in various locations in the state of Tennessee. The TVMA is a state-wide professional organization, networking Tennessee veterinarians in the interest of veterinary medical excellence, best practices, and legislative initiatives.

Background

An unidentified canine respiratory disease (the Disease) that is resistant to standard treatments, and also tests negative for common respiratory pathogens, was first identified in New Hampshire in 2022. Since that time, cases of the Disease have spread to multiple states in the U.S., including Tennessee. As of this release, the cause of the Disease remains unknown, but appears to be viral in nature.

Symptoms of the Disease seem to follow three principle patterns: chronic, mild to moderate tracheobronchitis lasting six to eight weeks and is unresponsive to antibiotics; chronic pneumonia unresponsive to antibiotics, and acute pneumonia that can be fatal within 24 to 36 hours.

“It is important to remember that in the vast majority of cases involving this illness, dogs are making full recoveries,” said Dr. Forrest Reynolds, TVMA President. “However, because we have not identified the disease specifically, and because it appears to be viral in nature, it is important that veterinarians and pet owners know what to look for and how to address the situation should it arise.”

Assessment and Care

Periodic and even seasonal outbreaks of Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease Complex (CIRDC) are normal occurrences within a dog population. The difference in this instance is that the Disease has not yet been identified and is resistant to typical CIRDC treatments, yet it mimics symptoms such as coughing, difficulty breathing, sneezing, nasal and/or eye discharge and lethargy.

“Consider this situation much in the same way you would think about flu, which is also a virus that is mutating every season,” said Dr. Reynolds. “The same logic applies to treating dogs as it does to yourself or family members. Canines that are elderly or very young, immunocompromised, pregnant, or have pre-existing cardiac or respiratory problems are going to be at a higher risk of increased complications from respiratory disease. Brachycephalic (smushed-type faces) breeds such as Pugs and English Bulldogs have an increased risk as well.

“If your dog does not fit this criterion, they will typically have a full recovery with minimal complications,” Dr. Reynolds said. “At the same time, all pet owners should be proactive when it comes to the wellness of their animals and seek the opinion of their veterinarian if they are concerned about their pet’s health.”

Doctor Reynolds recommends the following care tips for dog owners and dog-related businesses:

Owners

Ensure that your dog is current with its respiratory vaccines
Try to limit close contact with unknown dogs
Avoid sharing water or food bowls or toys with unknown dogs
If your dog appears sick, keep them home with you
If your dog exhibits persistent CIRDC symptoms, take them to your vet

Dog-Related Business Owners (Non-Vet)

Request that clients keep sick dogs at home
Consider requiring full vaccinations prior to allowing access to the facility
Isolate a sick dog until the owner can pick the dog up
Clean kennels, and food and water bowls consistently and try to avoid sharing these items
Ensure good ventilation and utilize HEPA filters in enclosed kennel areas
Wash your hands before touching a different pet

Proactive Reporting

On December 1, 2023, Samantha Beaty, DVM, Tennessee State Veterinarian, sent a communication on behalf of the Department of Agriculture’s Animal Health Division to Tennessee veterinarians requesting that they report all cases of atypical respiratory disease and share lab results. The objective is to help identify this Disease more specifically and address potential treatment options going forward.

In her letter, Dr. Beaty recommends that vets inform their clients of the importance of vaccinations for all known respiratory diseases and to use caution when comingling animals. She notes that while the exact transmission of the Disease is not determined, she recommends limiting interaction between dogs of unknown vaccination status in environments such as dog parks, boarding facilities, doggie daycare, and grooming facilities.

Professionals seeking additional information about testing can email the Animal Health Division at [email protected].

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