Mystery illness in dogs keeps Capital Region veterinarians on high alert

Vet offers tips for dog owners to avoid mysterious illness

We've been reporting on a mystery illness in dogs that can quickly turn from a cough to severe pneumonia.

A mystery illness in dogs that can quickly turn from a cough to a severe pneumonia is concerning local veterinarians as the holiday season approaches.

NewsChannel 13 reported last week on a warning from Malta Animal Hospital to dog owners.  

While no official cases have been reported in New York, dogs who test negative for all other respiratory illnesses may have this elusive illness

Max Smith takes care of dogs through the business he runs with his sister called Better than a Bone Pet Sitting, a business born out of the pandemic pet boom.

“I’ve lost a couple of sits because of it,” he said.

Smith is keeping his dogs in their own area at the park in Malta whenever he can. However, he worried more pet parents could opt to fully isolate their furry friends.

“It definitely sounds like it could be a problem,” he said. “Just to hear that kind of scares me, considering this is my livelihood now.”

Experts say the outbreak is different from the usual dog cough or flu because of the number of cases in North America that are serious enough to lead to pneumonia.

At Malta Animal Hospital, veterinarians are taking precautions with extra cleaning and distancing when dogs come in with a cough, coughing can be the first sign of illness, said Dr. Michelle Bombard.

“Also, you can get sneezing, you can get runny nose, runny eyes, discharge from the eyes,” Dr. Bombard said. “We always like to catch them early, if your dog is coughing, the sooner you can contact your veterinarian is certainly key, making sure to kind of keep them home.”

She said it’s hard to know whether the illness is a variation of a well-known dog cough or something entirely new. It could be spreading because of lower immune resistance in dogs after the pandemic isolation, plus fewer dogs getting vaccinated. It may also be attributed to the increased number of dogs purchased during the pandemic.

Dr. Bombard suggested pet parents be not alarmed, but alert. For dogs boarding or traveling this holiday season, she suggested owners make sure to check on whether other dogs are healthy and have their shots.

“Just like if we traveled with family, sometimes you might want to question a little bit, ‘how’s everybody feeling?’” she said.