Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease: What you need to know

December 1, 2023

In the past few weeks, news has circulated about a mystery respiratory illness that’s plaguing dogs in 14 states, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. While the illness has not been reported in Missouri just yet, neighboring states have several reported cases.

Researchers are still attempting to determine if the disease – which can be fatal – is viral or bacterial, and whether it could be a variant of the well-understood canine disease known as “kennel cough,” the association said.

The risk for getting seriously ill or death is with senior dogs, brachycephalics immune-compromised pets, pets with secondary serious diseases such as heart disease or cancer. Dogs with shorter sinuses like pugs, French bulldogs, etc. are also more likely to contract respiratory viruses.

Symptoms including coughing that can last four to six weeks, which could be mild bronchitis or could escalate to pneumonia. Some acute cases have quickly become pneumonia within 24 to 36 hours, the association said.

The question many dog owners have is, when it serious enough to call the vet? If your dog is lethargic, not eating and or is having difficulty breathing, call your vet immediately. In cases where they have a slight cough and seem a little under the weather, but are otherwise behaving normally, it’s best just to let them rest and to give them a break from socializing with other dogs until they feel better.

AMCMA’s protocols at this time:

  1.  We recommend that if your pet is showing signs of a respiratory illness, to seek veterinary care. In order to keep your pet as safe as possible, we have a designated “contagious room” separate from the other examination rooms to have the client and pet meet with the veterinarian for the examination/visit. To make an appointment, click here.


  1.  We also recommend that the pet be up to date on all respiratory vaccines. We currently vaccinate against influenza and kennel cough and have the vaccines available.


  1.  Finally, we recommend being cautious about traveling with your pet to the areas where the respiratory disease has been found. Currently, there have been no cases reported in Missouri, and the Missouri Veterinary Medical Association has a platform for veterinarians to access the latest information about the spread. Also, our University of Missouri Diagnostic Lab can do necessary testing for known pathogens or diseases that can attack the respiratory system. The VMDL conducts bacterial and fungal culture and antimicrobial susceptibility testing, and PCR for Adenovirus, Coronavirus, Distemper virus, and Influenza virus. When known bacterial, fungal, and viral agents cannot be detected, the VMDL conducts metagenomic sequencing of clinical samples, such as nasopharyngeal or tracheal swabs and lung tissues to find potential cause of the illness.