Mysterious Canine Respiratory Illness Hits California

A mysterious respiratory illness affecting dogs, previously reported in several states, has made its way to California, causing concern among pet owners and prompting animal welfare officials to issue warnings. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has already identified at least 10 cases of what is termed “atypical canine infectious respiratory disease.”

Symptoms and Severity

Dogs affected by this enigmatic illness exhibit symptoms such as coughing, nasal discharge, sneezing, and lethargy. In some instances, the disease progresses rapidly, leading to severe consequences within 24-36 hours, including death. The urgency of the situation has led to heightened vigilance among veterinarians and pet owners alike.

The Bay Area’s Potential Exposure

While the San Francisco SPCA has not reported a significant surge in respiratory disease at its facilities, CEO Dr. Jennifer Scarlett and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jena Valdez acknowledge the fragmented nature of veterinary medicine surveillance. They suggest there’s a good chance the illness may already be present in the Bay Area, emphasizing the importance of preventive measures.

Protective Measures

Pet owners are urged to keep their furry companions up to date on vaccinations that protect against respiratory ailments. Common vaccines include Bordetella, canine influenza (CIV), and DHPP (distemper, hepatitis, parainfluenza, and parvovirus). Despite the concerns, the advice is not to cancel holiday boarding arrangements for pets but to ensure caretakers are informed and take necessary precautions.

National Collaborative Efforts

Nationally, veterinary laboratories are collaborating to uncover the root cause of this mysterious illness. Despite resembling common upper respiratory infections, the disease does not test positive for known culprits like canine influenza or Bordetella (kennel cough). Researchers are exploring clinical syndromes, including chronic inflammation of the trachea and pneumonia, associated with poor outcomes.

Unveiling Potential Causes

Researchers at the University of New Hampshire’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory believe they may have identified a potential pathogen, describing it as a “funky bacterium” that is challenging to trace and sequence. However, these findings require further confirmation through additional research.

Expert Advice and Caution

With a surge in holiday travel expected, experts advise keeping dogs away from crowded areas where the transmission of viruses and bacteria is more likely. The San Francisco SPCA recommends planning ahead for vaccinations, ensuring shots are administered at least two weeks before travel for dogs not up to date on their vaccinations.


As the mysterious canine respiratory illness casts a shadow over California, pet owners are urged to stay informed, take preventive measures, and collaborate with veterinary professionals to protect their beloved companions. The collaborative efforts of national laboratories and ongoing research aim to unravel the mystery behind this concerning outbreak, providing hope for effective prevention and treatment strategies in the future.

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