Emerging Atypical Canine Respiratory Disease

Emerging Atypical Canine Respiratory Disease in the USA and Wisconsin

Throughout 2023, veterinary diagnostic laboratories across the country have been working with dog owners, their veterinarians, and animal health officials to find a definitive diagnosis for an emerging atypical canine respiratory disease.  Several states have been recording and following dogs with clinical respiratory signs.  From anecdotal evidence and reports from Wisconsin veterinarians, we are confident that this clinical syndrome is affecting dogs in Wisconsin.  Click HERE for a recent article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Current Knowledge and Information Regarding Emerging Atypical Canine Respiratory Disease

  1. We do not have a clear case definition.  Different states are reporting different clinical signs.  Some are known pathogens, some are not. Veterinarians are still seeing normal disease outbreaks with known pathogens such as Streptococcus, Mycoplasma, and viruses such as canine influenza.
  2. We have heard anecdotal information that some dogs are dying, but we do not have necropsy data or concrete reports that this is the case.  The concrete reports we have from national calls are high morbidity, low mortality. Most veterinarians are reporting coughs that last for 4-8 weeks with treatment.  A subset of those dogs develop pneumonia that responds to intensive antibiotic therapy.  A subset of dogs with pneumonia may die.  We do not have specific or estimated numbers of affected dogs, nor do we know how many dogs develop severe disease or die.
  3. We are recommending that a minimum database of diagnostics be done.  Many dogs are not tested.  We need to rule out the common issues before we start looking for novel pathogens with NAHLN partners.  We do not have data from commercial veterinary diagnostic laboratories.
  4. New Hampshire VDL has some preliminary data about non-culturable “bacteria-like” organisms from metagenomic analysis (from Spring 2023).  Non-culturable “bacteria-like” organisms could be related to Mycoplasma sp., Chlamydophila, or Coxiella.That is not an all-inclusive list.  While it could be a promising lead, more data is needed and we continue to look for new and existing pathogens. For more information from the New Hampshire VDL, visit the link HERE.

Recommendations to the general public include:

  1. Contact your veterinarian with questions.
  2. Make sure your dog is current on core vaccines.
  3. Minimize exposure to higher risk areas where multiple dogs are in close contact, especially if your dog has co-morbidities or other risks (ie.- young puppy, old dog, underlying diseases, or immunosuppressive therapies). Examples of higher risk areas include dog parks, boarding facilities, and dog daycare.

How Veterinarians Can Assist In Investigations

At this time, the causative agent of this atypical canine respiratory disease has not yet been identified and diagnostic testing in more suspect cases is required to identify potential causes of disease. The Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory recommends that veterinarians can help further investigate canine respiratory disease by ruling out common respiratory issues first and then provide diagnostic samples to the WVDL. Please contact WVDL to speak to one of our veterinary client communication specialists for guidance on appropriate sample collection and transport. Please keep the following in mind:

  • Collect high-quality samples early on during infection
  • Provide a complete history on the GENERAL submission form
  • Order the canine respiratory disease panel (test code: RESPPNLK9) and aerobic culture

If results are negative, please reach out to WVDL for additional testing options.

Updates will be added as we learn more.

The Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory is monitoring this issue closely and will be working with diagnostic laboratories, as well as state and federal agencies across the country to identify a potential cause for the elevated number of dogs with respiratory clinical signs. Please have your veterinarian contact us with any questions or for advice and assistance.