Unraveling the Mystery Behind the Mysterious Dog Respiratory Illness

Updated On: Friday, December 8, 2023 13:09:58 PM America/Los_Angeles


In recent weeks, a cloud of concern has cast a shadow over the canine community as reports emerge of a new and mysterious illness claiming the lives of dogs. The unsettling nature of this mysterious illness has left pet owners and veterinarians grappling for answers. In this blog post, we delve into this mysterious respiratory illness, shedding light on what is known, what remains unknown, and precautions you can take to keep your dog safe. 

What Is This Mysterious Dog Respiratory Illness?

The mysterious dog illness, as vets are calling it “Atypical Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease,”¹ is a respiratory illness that has been known to start out as a simple cough but can lead to pneumonia and possibly even death. Veterinarians are concerned because they don’t exactly know what is causing this illness, nor how it is being transmitted between dogs. 

What Are Symptoms of This Dog Illness?

A simple cough is the most common symptom of this dog illness, which can be dangerous because it can be confused with kennel cough, another common disease but very treatable. According to a Washington Post interview with Lindsey Ganzer, a veterinarian who owns the North Springs Veterinary Referral Center in Colorado, she states that “where we’re seeing this end up differently is that the cough is very prolonged, it doesn’t resolve on its own, and it very quickly develops into pneumonia.”² There are other reported symptoms of this dog illness, such as sneezing, lethargy, loss of appetite, difficulty breathing and a fever. According to veterinarians, these symptoms can last up to six weeks or more.

Where Is This Dog Virus Happening?

The concerning wave of the mysterious dog illness has spread its grip across several states, sending shockwaves through the canine community. Since mid-August, veterinarians in Oregon have reported more than 200 cases, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AMVA).³ There are at least six other states confirming cases as well such as Colorado, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Illinois, Maryland and Wyoming.⁵ The widespread nature of the outbreak underscores the urgency of understanding and addressing this enigmatic illness, prompting both pet owners and veterinarians to unite in vigilance and swift action. The geographical diversity of affected areas emphasizes the need for a collaborative, nationwide approach to investigate the root causes and implement preventive measures to safeguard the well-being of our four-legged companions.

Preventative Measures You Can Take

Although a lot is unknown right now about transmission of this dog respiratory illness, there are several preventative measures that you can take to protect your pup.

Avoid Public Places (Dog Kennels, Doggy Day Care, Dog Parks): Because there is no answer as to how this disease is being transmitted, veterinarians are suggesting to steer clear of any situation in which your pup is in close proximity to a group of other dogs. According to Kurt Williams, the director of the Oregon Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at Oregon State University, he says that “the assumption is that like with other respiratory diseases, it spreads as dogs inhale aerosolized particles from infected dogs.”⁴

Keep a Close Eye on Your Pup’s Health: If your dog exhibits any symptoms of dog illness, seek prompt veterinary attention. Early detection and intervention play a crucial role in managing the impact of this mysterious illness. In that same interview with the Washington Post Lindsey Ganzer said, “We need to be treating sooner rather than later. It’s really important…I’ve had cases where it’ll be two housemate dogs, and one of them will show signs, but I’ve gone ahead and started both on antibiotics. A couple days later, the other one will start to cough but is doing better than the first one.”²

Limit Walks in Crowded Areas: Because of the suggestion to keep your pup away from other dogs, some may be concerned about whether or not walking your dog is safe. As it’s still unknown exactly how the disease is spread, it’s best to keep your dog away from crowded trails or other areas where they may encounter a lot of other dogs. If you don’t have a yard of your own, purchasing an at-home dog bathroom such as DoggieLawn may be a good idea. DoggieLawn is farm fresh real grass delivered to your doorstep. Because it’s hydroponically grown, it neutralizes odors and can be used indoors as well as on a balcony. Dogs tend to take to it easier than other solutions such as pee pads or fake grass because it’s REAL grass and what they’re used to using. 

When Will We Have an Answer or a Cure For This Mystery Dog Respiratory Illness?

As reports of cases continue to surface across multiple states, it becomes evident that a collaborative effort between pet owners, veterinarians, and health authorities is essential. According to a NBC News interview with Dr. David Needle, pathology section chief at the College of Life Sciences and Agriculture at the University of New Hampshire, he stated that through a genetic sequencing sample of 30 dogs who were infected last year and 40 who were infected this year they have identified an unknown germ.⁶ “The pathogen is “a funky bacterium…It’s smaller than a normal bacterium in its size and in the size of its genome. Long story short, it’s a weird bacterium that can be tough to find and sequence.”⁶ He claims that “[this] is new as a potential cause of disease, but it is likely to be— or to have evolved from — a component of the dog microbiome.”⁶ Though the discovery of the germ is significant, veterinarians remain unsure if the same germ is what's sickening dogs across the country. So, as of yet, we do not have a set answer, let alone a cure for this dog virus.


Staying informed about the symptoms, transmission risks, and geographical spread is imperative, empowering us to make educated decisions for the well-being of our four-legged friends. The journey to understanding and overcoming this canine respiratory illness requires united vigilance and a commitment to the health and safety of our canine companions. 


¹Staff, KCAL-News. “Mysterious Respiratory Dog Illness Turns up in 10 La County Canines, Prompting Health Investigation.” CBS News, CBS Interactive, 22 Nov. 2023, www.cbsnews.com/losangeles/news/mysterious-respiratory-dog-illness-turns-up-in-10-la-county-canines-prompting-health-investigation/.
²Cho, Kelly Kasulis. “A Mysterious Illness Is Sickening Dogs in Several States. Some Are Dying.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 22 Nov. 2023, www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2023/11/21/dogs-respiratory-illness-symptoms-states/.
³Hohman, Maura. “Possible Cause of Mystery Dog Illness Identified by Research Lab: What to Know.” TODAY.Com, 16 Nov. 2023, www.today.com/health/mystery-dog-illness-2023-rcna125553.
oong, Kelyn. “What a Mystery Illness in Dogs Could Mean for Holiday Pet Care.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 22 Nov. 2023, www.washingtonpost.com/wellness/2023/11/22/dogs-respiratory-illness-boarding-daycare/.
⁵Carballo, Rebecca. “What to Know about the Mysterious Respiratory Illness Affecting Dogs.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 22 Nov. 2023, www.nytimes.com/article/dog-respiratory-illness.html.
⁶Carroll, Linda. “What to Know on the Mystery Dog Respiratory Illness: Signs, Symptoms and More.” NBCNews.Com, NBCUniversal News Group, 22 Nov. 2023, www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/mystery-dog-illness-respiratory-what-know-rcna125992.