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Unidentified Respiratory Illness of Dogs

Today the Indiana Board of Animal Health (BOAH) sent out information regarding the recent unidentified respiratory illness in dogs.  Consistent with what is happening across the country, veterinarians throughout Indiana have reported an unusual respiratory illness in dogs.  The source of the illness has not been definitively identified.  BOAH has been tracking reports received from Bloomington, Indianapolis, Evansville, and throughout the rest of the state.  Recent and upcoming holiday travel and boarding may generate a spike in cases in the coming weeks and through the end of the year.


Many of the cases appear clinically indistinguishable from canine infectious respiratory disease complex (CIRD), or “kennel cough.”  Often clinical signs start with a dry, hacking cough.  Some of the cases have a cough that even with appropriate diagnostics and treatment linger much longer than the typical 7-14 days.  Some of them have a cough lasting 12 or more weeks.  A small percentage have progressed despite appropriate therapy, showing signs of systemic illness.  Affected dogs may begin to show signs of lethargy, fever, decreased appetite, productive cough, nasal and/or ocular discharge, respiratory distress, or pneumonia.

BOAH case reports show all breeds and sizes of dogs may be affected.  Some dogs have underlying issues which make them more susceptible to the negative effects of the illness.  Brachycephalic (flat faced) breeds seem to be overrepresented among reports of severe cases.

In addition to unvaccinated dogs, this novel outbreak appears to be affecting dogs that have been vaccinated for Bordetella and Bivalent Canine Flu.  

At this time, a causative agent has not been identified.  BOAH has been communicating with the Indiana Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory (ADDL) at Purdue University as well as other labs in Indiana but no consistent causative agent has been identified.  ADDL has identified Mycoplasma sp. in a small number of samples, but the role this fairly common pathogen plays in this current respiratory disease is uncertain.

BOAH recommendations

  • Dog owners should monitor their dogs for signs of illness after boarding, holiday travel, or other activities where pets may have commingled with other dogs.  If a dog develops a cough or lethargy, it is recommended to contact your veterinarian.

  • Make sure all dogs are up-to-date on all their recommended vaccines including DAPP (distemper, adenovirus, parainfluenza, and parvo), Bordetella, and Bivalent Canine Flu.

  • Reduce contact with large numbers of unknown dogs when possible.  Like with other respiratory diseases, dogs that are co-mingled are at a greater risk of developing the illness.

  • Keep sick dogs at home whenever possible (unless taking them to the veterinarian for examination or treatment).  Social settings carry inherent risks of disease spread.

  • Avoid communal water bowls shared by multiple dogs.

  • Remember brachycephalic breeds seem to be more susceptible to the negative effects of this illness.

  • When possible, reduce contact with coughing or otherwise sick dogs.  Be sure to wash hands thoroughly after visiting another dog to limit spread of disease. 

If your dog begins coughing it is recommended to contact your veterinarian, Furry Friends Veterinary Hospital (812) 822-2236 and inform them your dog is coughing.  Ideally your appointment will begin curbside to minimize exposure to other canine patients.  Diagnostics such as thoracic radiographs (chest x-rays) are recommended to monitor disease progression.  We have seen many of these cases and will discuss all known diagnostic and treatment options to find the best plan for you and your dog.  

Cody Kalmon DVM

Furry Friends Veterinary Hospital




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