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About the New Mystery Dog Illness

Updated: Nov 30, 2023

There is a mystery dog illness going around. It's similar to Kennel Cough but may be more serious. This mysterious upper respiratory illness has been identified in a number of states. Thankfully, Virginia and the Yorktown area have yet to confirm any cases. Even though we've been spared in VA thus far, we want to talk about the new mystery dog illness and how to reduce your dog's chances of being exposed.

What is the New Mystery Dog Illness?

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While much of this is new and still under review, the consensus seems to be that the illness is caused by a bacterium. While it's a bacterial pathogen, it appears that antibiotics may not be effective against it, which is, of course, throwing veterinarians for a loop.

Researches in New Hampshire are studying samples from around the country and will know more in the coming weeks but it's important that dog parents know that 1) it's going around 2) what the symptoms are 3) how to reduce exposure NOW. We encourage you to share this blog post with the dog lovers in your life to ensure they too are aware.

How is the New Mystery Dog Illness Spread?

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While little is known about this new mystery dog illness, veterinarians suspect that the bacteria is spread via droplets and, potentially, contact. Because the pathogen and its lifecycle aren't yet understood, it's not yet known if the pathogen survives on surfaces therefore focus is on dog-to-dog exposure at this time. Click here to learn more about the research being done on what's being referred to as a 'canine respiratory outbreak' by the University of New Hampshire. They are exploring all options and looking for a solution.

What are the Symptoms of the New Mystery Dog Illness?

Symptoms of the new mystery dog illness include coughing, nasal discharge, loss of appetite, and lethargy. Unfortunately, it appears high-risk dogs - young puppies, those with preexisting conditions, and seniors - may be susceptible to worsening symptoms including shortness of breath and respiratory distress.

How Severe is the New Mystery Dog Illness?

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Thankfully, while it sounds terrifying, the new mystery dog illness appears to be pretty mild for most dogs that are exposed. Unfortunately, however, some dogs have developed pneumonia as a result of the illness. Many have taken weeks, if not months, to recover, and a smaller number of dogs have perished. Our hearts break for their families.

What Do I Need to Know About Exposure?

It appears that most of the dogs that have contracted the new mystery dog illness have been exposed while in places where multiple unfamiliar dogs congregate. These places include dog parks, doggie daycare, and boarding facilities. Because the illness is suspected to be spread via airborne droplets, it makes sense that dogs that are exposed to lots of other dogs may be more at risk than those that have limited interactions with others.

Because the illness is not well understood, it's best to play it safe at this time. Limit exposure by avoiding dog parks and group dog activities like pack walks for the time being. If possible, opt for an in-home pet sitter or dog walker instead of a daycare or boarding facility. And, keep an eye out for symptoms if your pet has recently been in any of these settings.

What Can Dog Owners Do About the New Mystery Dog Illness?

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There's unfortunately not much dog owners can do about the new mystery dog illness until we know more about how it is spread and its effect on the body. In the meantime, we recommend dog parents ensure that their dogs are as healthy as possible so that, should they be exposed, their body will be ready to fight off the potentially new pathogen. Supporting your dog's immune system is especially important for those with young puppies, seniors, and chronically ill dogs.

No matter your dogs' age and overall health, feed them the best diet you can afford, ensure you're feeding adequate portions to ensure optimum nutrition, and consider supplementing your dog with Omega 3s, probiotics, porcine plasma, and CBD to boost immunity. If your dog has a history of upper respiratory illness or a condition that makes him or her more susceptible to lung disease, talk to your veterinarian about their recommendations to support your dog moving forward.

Most importantly, exercise your dog daily. Either sign up for our dog walking services or make daily 10-20 minute walks with your dog(s) a priority. Physical exercise is an excellent way to boost your dog's immunity and keep their system functioning optimally. Similarly, stimulating your dog's mind is a great way to keep their outlook positive, which also boosts immunity. Consider puzzle toys and feeders to give your dog that extra bit of pep in their step.

Finally, keep stress and fear to a minimum. If you're concerned, your dog will be too. Take a deep breath and know that your dog is likely not at risk for severe symptoms from this mystery illness. Most dogs that contract this mystery condition will make a full recovery therefore don't make yourself crazy if you live in an area where avoiding other dogs is impossible.

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At Hearts at Home Pet Sitting, we've always believed that dogs do best when they remain in their home environment. Dogs are more at ease, exposed to fewer illnesses, and overall more relaxed when they remain home while their owners are at work or traveling.

Our renowned dog walking and pet sitting services are a great way to leave dogs at home while you’re away, reducing your dog's exposure to unknowns like this one.

If you are new to Hearts at Home, please submit a new client questionnaire here. For more information, visit our website or contact us by email at or by phone at 757-745-9868.

Our pet sitters and dog walkers provide in-home pet care services for Yorktown, Poquoson, Newport News and Hampton, Virginia.

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