top of page

Recent Posts


Canine Respiratory Disease Outbreak

By Christine Newman, DVM | Posted January 18, 2024

Concern is on the rise among dog owners across the country about a contagious dog respiratory disease, the cause of which remains unknown. According to reports both on social media and by accredited veterinary publications, dogs are presenting with runny noses and a frequent cough, lasting for weeks to months.

Many of the dogs tested negative for established viral and bacterial organisms, and most did not respond to antibiotics. While most dogs recovered, a few developed pneumonia, and even fewer died. The cases seemed to be localized to Western and Midwestern states, although cases have been reported in a total of 17 states as of this writing, according to Louisiana State University. The closest state to New Jersey that has reported the illness is Pennsylvania.

I first heard about this outbreak on the radio, and then saw a few of the mainstream news articles. It struck me as odd that I had not received some type of official alert, but when I checked my online veterinary forum, I was not alone. Most veterinarians, it seems, had heard about this mysterious illness from their clients or the news.

Article continues after ad.

Dr. Scott Weese of the “Worms and Germs Blog” theorized that there was no novel illness, but rather inflated media attention to an increase in Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease Complex, known familiarly as kennel cough. Instances of kennel cough characteristically rise during the holiday season as families board their pets while traveling.

Researchers at the University of New Hampshire, however, say they’ve made a significant revelation on the disease. In December, they identified a sequence of genes from a bacterium isolated from samples of affected dogs. The identical sequence of DNA was identified in 21 of 30 samples and was similar to a bacterium isolated about 10 years ago from a human with a respiratory illness. However, this development may leave us with more questions than answers.

Does this bacterium cause the disease? Is it possible that healthy dogs also have this bug living in their respiratory tracts? How do we test for and treat this illness? It will take significant research to determine these answers.

What we can do in the meantime is be mindful of our pets. Make sure all pets in the household, even those that stay indoors, are up-to-date on their vaccines—especially Bordetella and influenza vaccines, which help prevent kennel cough and canine flu. Limit exposure at dog parks, groomers, play groups, etc. If you do need to place your dog in a day care or kennel be sure to select reputable establishments that prioritize sanitation, and provide them with all relevant veterinary information in case your dog becomes sick while you’re away.

If your dog develops any signs consistent with respiratory illnesses, such as congestion, runny nose, or a frequent cough, contact your veterinarian. There are tests and treatments for the most common illnesses.

Helpful Websites:


bottom of page