Unknown dog respiratory illness makes its way to Indiana

NOW: Unknown dog respiratory illness makes its way to Indiana

SOUTH BEND, Ind. - An unknown respiratory illness affecting dogs is rapidly spreading across the county, making its way to the Hoosier State.

Fur parents are on high alert, especially during the holidays, as owners board their pets as they travel. 

Dr. Richard Headley, who's been serving Michiana at Lincoln Way Veterinary Clinic for more than 50 years, is trying to figure out the mystery illness. 

He cautions owners to not be scared and to stay on high alert. 

The respiratory illness, presenting like kennel cough, can, in some cases, be fatal.

Symptoms include coughing, sneezing, nasal or eye discharge and lethargy.

Some cases of pneumonia progress quickly, making dogs very sick within 24 to 36 hours.

People who start seeing symptoms should contact their veterinarian as soon as possible.

"We don’t know what we are dealing with," said Dr. Headley. "We don’t know if it's something new or something old that is occurring sporadically in different location. State labs are working on trying to identify a new organism, but so far, they haven’t found anything."

Although there have been reports of the illness in Indiana, so far, Dr. Headley has been fortunate to not see any cases in his clients.

As a precaution, dogs should be isolated from other animals, avoiding dog parks, kennels, and stores.

"It's much like what we did with the COVID thing a few years ago,” Dr. Headley added.

With many traveling for the holiday, this is one of the busiest weeks for boarding services, like at Bittersweet Pet Resort in Niles.

"The whole week is really busy," said Madison Heart with the Bittersweet. "We got a lot of pups, we're at about full capacity right now.” 

Bittersweet says their staff is doing what they can to keep pups happy and healthy during their holiday stays and grooming appointments.

Though no cases have been confirmed in the area, Bittersweet conducts rigorous cleaning with hospital grade cleaner. 

Dr. Headley says if your pet must stay somewhere the best thing to do is to serve as your pets own watch dog.

"Keep an eye on them when they get home," he instructs owners who board their pets during the holidays. "If you start to see upper respiratory symptoms or coughing certainly seek veterinary care right away. People tend to wait longer than they should in a lot of cases and once the disease gets a hold its harder to manage."

State agencies, researchers, and the U.S department of Agriculture’s National Veterinary Services Laboratory are all working to find out what’s causing the illness and more information.

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