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The Rough Rider

New Dog Illness Spreading Across the Country


     They say a dog is a man’s best friend, and sure enough, during the COVID-19 pandemic, they were there for us. 

     But now, they are beginning to suffer a pandemic of their own, and it’s now our turn to be there for them. 

     As you read this article, dogs across America are suffering from a mystery illness attacking their respiratory system. It’s currently spreading through 15 states:  Oregon, Colorado, California, Illinois, Florida Georgia, Indiana, Massachusetts, Washington, Vermont, Maryland, Idaho, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Tennessee. 

     The dogs in these states show symptoms such as lingering cough, weakness, loss of appetite, and difficulty breathing which could lead to pneumonia. The pneumonia also doesn’t seem to respond to treatments that are regularly used in these scenarios according to 

     Canines in the RIS community have been affected as 8th grader Ella Hartz’s dog seems to have contracted this new illness. 

     “He first got a bad cough in early December,” she explained. “Whenever he coughed it kind of sounded like he was gagging. We think it might be kennel cough, which he’s gotten before from doggy daycare. It’s been a few weeks now and we got some medication from the vet but he’s still very slow. One of the medications he had to take at night wasn’t working so we’re giving it to him twice a day and it still isn’t working.” 

     This new illness usually starts as a cough lasting for weeks or even months since it doesn’t respond to typical treatment like antibiotics. In some dogs, the cough progresses to pneumonia and even death. However, a very small number of deaths have been reported.

     Many professionals suspect that this new disease might be a byproduct of COVID-19 when dogs were unlikely to spend time with other dogs like in doggy daycares and kennels according to the New York Times. 

     This could’ve exposed them to common pathogens (small living organisms like fungi). However, the idea remains in speculation. Especially with dogs socializing less, their owners might be less likely to get their dogs vaccinated to fight against the pathogens.

     While you may just be hearing about this mystery illness now, it has been around for about a year. The University of New Hampshire’s Veterinary Diagnosis Laboratory has already been studying the illness since 2022.

     “Since the pandemic, we’ve been seeing clusters of respiratory disease in dogs that spreads easily and has peaks where a large number of dogs are affected,” said Dr. Deborah Silverstein, a veterinarian at the University of Pennsylvania in an interview with the New York Times. 

     Although it has been in light for more than a year now, and over 200 dogs have gotten the disease, experts have not yet found the source of the sickness. 

     “We cannot know or even assume that all cases being reported have the same cause,” stated Dr. Rena Carlson, the president of the American Veterinary Medical Association, or A.V.M.A.

     This mystery illness could be a new strand of an already known illness, such as kennel cough. Kennel cough is a term for a contagious respiratory illness, which could be caused by a variety of viruses and bacteria. It is very common in dogs but in most cases, symptoms clear up on their own in 1-3 weeks. Unfortunately, extreme causes of kennel cough can sadly lead to pneumonia or even, in rare cases, death. 

     While the disease is not in the headlines of any news sources, this doesn’t mean that it can be ignored. When polling RIS students, 75 of the 145 students (52%) interviewed said that they had dogs. While this number may seem small, this means that more than half the school has pups!

     This means that more than half the school could be affected by this new illness. So, most students are probably wondering, ‘How can I protect my dog from this illness?’. 

     7th grade dog owner, Mia Munoz states, “My parents aren’t letting my dogs socialize with other dogs to help keep them safe. I’m worried about the new sickness and really hope my dogs don’t get it. They really mean a lot to me.” 

     While the disease is still considered uncommon, professionals are still urging dog owners to take caution. 

     One of the ways you can do this is to limit your dog’s social time with other dogs. For example, instead of letting your dog stay at doggie daycare, try to hire someone to walk your dog for a day or drop them off at a family member’s house. 

     It’s very easy for diseases to spread when there are multiple dogs together like how Ella’s dog got kennel cough from doggy daycare. If you can’t find someone to hire, ask what extra measures the daycare is taking against the illness. 

     Another way you can make sure your dog is safe is by making sure they have all of the vaccinations they need. Like humans, dogs have to get to the vet at least once a year so make sure you don’t miss any of their appointments. If you do not know if your dog vaccinations are up to date, please contact your doctor.

     If your dog shows symptoms, do not wait to see a vet. The disease could progress to something worse like pneumonia or even death, so make sure you’re aware of the symptoms. 

     Many vets and scientists are researching more into the illness as you read this article, so more medicines and vaccines are being discovered that could help your dog. Right now, the best way to help your dog is to make sure they’re fully vaccinated, limit their social time, and know the symptoms so you can go to the doctor when you spot them.

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