Mysterious Respiratory Illness Affecting Dogs In Massachusetts

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BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) — Cases of a mystery respiratory illness in dogs are being reported in Massachusetts.

Health officials are not clear if the illness is a type of kennel cough or an entirely new pathogen.

"Kennel cough is usually diagnosed based on clinical signs and physical exam," Kiko Bracker, DVM, Director of Emergency and Critical Care at MSPCA-Angell told WBZ NewsRadio Wednesday. "There is a DNA PCR test available to test for the 6 or so causative agents of kennel cough (both bacterial and viral) that can be used. Dogs who are thought to have this new illness occasionally test negative for all of those pathogens, or have occasional positives. That is no different than the testing results we have historically gotten for kennel cough. I don’t think we can say if what we are seeing is kennel cough or something different."

Symptoms include coughing, sneezing, nasal or eye discharge and overall lethargy, which can become onset within 24 to 36 hours. The illness is potentially fatal, but deaths are uncommon, doctors say.

Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Rhode Island are among the 14 states in which the illness has spread, though experts say the number of cases is minimal for now.

"We have had some hospitalization of cases that would fit the description of this illness in the last 6 months, but not an excessive number of them," Bracker said.

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