NEWS AND COMMMENT: Online, there are disturbing reports about a mystery respiratory disease affecting more than 200 dogs in Oregon and the report is that other states are affected. The worrying aspect of this disease is that at this stage the experts don’t know whether it is viral or bacterial. Diseases caused by viruses are more contagious than those caused by bacteria and therefore my gut feel is that this is a viral disease.
It causes chronic pneumonia which is non-responsive to antimicrobials. And acute pneumonia rapidly becomes severe leading to poor outcomes very quickly, in as little as 24-36 hours. And there is chronic to moderate inflammation of the trachea which lasts 6 to 8 weeks or longer and which is also minimally or non-responsive to antimicrobials (relating to or caused by ‘microbes’). In other words, they don’t know whether the pathogen is a bacterium or a virus.
It’s interesting that the symptoms seem to be similar to those of Covid-19. I’m not saying that this is a mutation of the Covid-19 virus affecting dogs rather than people but Covid-19 is a zoonosis which means it can be transferred from animal to human and vice versa and there was a lot of talk during Covid-19 that companion animals might act as a reservoir for the disease. Perhaps it is happening but I’m being highly speculative. This possibility has not been mentioned by the experts.
The disease appears to act so quickly that by the time the dogs are taken to a veterinarian for diagnostic tests, the time for shedding the virus (if it is that) has passed. Tests are being carried out urgently.
There is a confusion to the story, as I see it, coming out of the San Diego Humane Society where their partner’s dog shelter is inundated with dogs which promotes the spread of this disease. It appears that they are saying that the disease is present at their shelter and the high number of dogs at the shelter is making matters worse. The shelter has stopped taking in dogs.
The report by KSWB-TV San Diego refers to a bacterial outbreak. Their report appears to be saying that this disease is bacterial in origin but it’s not true because the experts don’t know the origin of the disease. They appear to have got their wires crossed on this. Bacterial illnesses in shelters are not that uncommon because the animals are so close together and therefore contagion can happen relatively easily.
But a viral disease can spread outside of shelters relatively easily because it can be transmitted in the breath of the animals in water droplets just as Covid-19 is and was.
The advice currently is that all dog owners should ensure that their dogs are fully vaccinated and that they should avoid contact with other dogs from outside their home until this illness has been contained.