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Overland Park pet hospital concerned over mysterious dog respiratory illness heading to Midwest

Posted at 9:46 PM, Nov 27, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-27 23:23:42-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — On Monday, the American Veterinary Medical Association told USA Today a mysterious respiratory canine illness has now spread to 14 states, with 200 cases in Oregon alone.

An Overland Park pet hospital believes a new disease in dogs is making its way to the Kansas City area.

“A lot of people have traveled around the country, and although we haven’t had any confirmed cases in the central U.S., I think it’s coming here pretty soon, especially because of the travels from the holidays, boarding of pets over the holidays,” said Liz Talkington, a registered veterinarian technician and hospital administrator.

It’s not uncommon to see dog respiratory illnesses year-round.

Still, Talkington, with the Overland Park Veterinary Emergency and Specialty, says canines with dog flu or other upper respiratory illnesses normally respond to treatment; this virus is different.

“It's not responding to our normal courses of treatment, so it's progressing and getting worse,” Talkington said. “It’s a newer strain that we haven’t been able to identify. The different bacteria, pathogens, and funguses that cause the canine flu, it’s all testing negative, so we know it’s a new pathogen, but we have yet to know what it is."

Talkington and her staff were treating a dog on Monday with a severe respiratory illness.

The staff couldn't confirm without cultures that it was, in fact, the new disease, but called it suspicious.

Talkington says what starts as a canine cough turns to loss of appetite and wheezing, difficulty breathing, and severe pneumonia.

“I would be concerned,” she said. “We often bring our own pets to work with us; I’ve asked all of our staff to keep them at home. I’m concerned enough that we are quarantining our own dogs so they are not exposed because we have upper respiratory illness here. It’s suspicious; we’re concerned; we want owners to know what to do to protect their dogs.”

Talkington says the best thing dog owners can do is stay away from public places so they can’t meet up with other dogs, including avoiding doggy daycares and kennels, too.

“I hate to think of dogs getting sick,” said Frank McCarthy, who owns two dogs.

McCarthy said he's concerned and is taking steps to keep his dogs safe.

“I’m a little concerned. I had heard about it, but for me, the practical question would be, do I want to stop taking Ivy and Jesse to this dog park they love? Or would I rather run the risk of them getting this virus?" McCarthy said. "My thought is, they love this place; they are both healthy dogs, so why stop doing something we all love?"

Talkington recommends this holiday season having an at-home pet sitter, limiting family members from coming over with their pets. If that’s not possible separating them by rooms.

Talkington said this virus is not passed through humans to dogs, only dogs to dogs.