EUGENE, Ore. – A mysterious respiratory disease is making its way through canines across the Willamette Valley, and the cause of the disease is still unknown.
Willamette Valley veterinarians have reported numerous cases of an illness that has killed several dogs. The disease was first reported in August 2023, and has since infected at least 200 dogs from veterinary reports in the region according to the Oregon Department of Agriculture. Officials are unsure if dogs outside of the valley or in other states are becoming infected as well.
According to the ODA, the reported cases fall with in three general clinical syndromes: chronic mild-moderate tracheobronchitis that lasts at least six to eight weeks and is minimally or not responsive to antibiotics; chronic pneumonia that is minimally or not responsive to antibiotics; and acute pneumonia that can be fatal in as little as 24-36 hours.
The ODA is working with pathologists and virologists from state and federal veterinary laboratories as well as the Oregon Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at Oregon State University to try and understand what the cause of the illness could be.
According to Kurt Williams, the laboratory director at OSU’s veterinary lab, there is no current evidence that the sickness is a virus, but there is too little known about the disease to give advice to dog owners on how to avoid it.
“We’re still very much a little bit in the dark as we’re still trying to figure this out,” Williams said. “There appears to be an entity circulating in dogs, but we don’t wan to get ahead of ourselves, so we’re still in the characterizing phase of this.”
Williams also urges dog-owners to try to not jump to conclusions because so little is known about the disease.
“In veterinary medicine as in human medicine we have a long track record of successfully investigating new diseases,” Williams said. “People need to be patient in a world of instant gratification via the internet and misinformation, and we do need to recognize that these are complex questions that are being addressed, and that it may take a little bit of time.”
Overall, however, Williams said that with time, he is confident they will get to the bottom of what’s affecting so many canines.
“If this is an entity that is truly new and novel and there’s an underlying cause to it, we’ll figure it out,” Williams said. “We don’t want to become paranoid, so let’s trust the process.”
The ODA suggests caution rather than worry, as periodic outbreaks of Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease Complex can occur in a dog population. However, they suggest making sure your dog is up-to-date on all vaccines and getting your dog checked if you’re planning on attending any events where dogs are congregated.
“Patience and dog owners are part of the solution to this problem; they’re the ones that are going to first notice something is amiss with their family member, and it’s incumbent upon them that they get in contact with their veterinarian and get that process started,” Williams said.
The ODA and Williams recommend reaching out to your veterinarian with any concerns.
Jennifer Singh joined the KEZI 9 News team in July 2023 as a news reporter. If you have any story ideas for Jennifer, you can email her at email@example.com.