Quad Cities’ dog parks close due to local cases of mysterious respiratory illness

QUAD CITIES — Three dog parks in the Quad Cities have been closed after a few cases of a mysterious respiratory illness have been diagnosed in local dogs. The illness has
been reported in 14 states, leads to pneumonia in some dogs and, in rare cases, has been fatal.

Dr. April Blong, a veterinarian, is a professor at Iowa State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. She says there have been no known cases at the university’s Small Animal Hospital and researchers do not yet have a definitive answer about what may be causing some dogs to get seriously ill.  “Until we have some idea or a better idea of exactly what we’re dealing with, it’s a little hard to track,” Dr. Blong says.

Dr. Blong says just like when humans catch the flu, some dogs are getting far sicker from whatever virus this may be. “Just like with regular kennel cough that dogs get all the time, in certain individuals for whatever reason it seems to become more serious and can progress to an overt pneumonia that can be very serious,” she says.

As with kennel cough, puppies and dogs with underlying health conditions like diabetes may be at higher risk. “An animal with a chronic disease, you should just be more mindful of where you’re taking them, what they’re potentially being exposed to and the same with the young dogs,” Dr. Blong says. “There’s a lot of things younger animals can contract besides a respiratory illness, just by being in contact with other dogs.”

That’s because it takes a while for the immune system in a young animal to fully develop. Coughing, difficulty breathing and lethargy are symptoms of respiratory disease in dogs. Dr. Blong says if your dog is healthy, though, being around other health dogs is a good activity.  “Dogs are social animals,” she says, “so if we keep them by themselves or don’t let them play with anyone or do anything, that actually could be detrimental from a behavior standpoint.”

The American Veterinary Medical Association says dog owners should take their pet to a vet as soon as coughing or other respiratory symptoms appear. The medical group says researchers haven’t determined if recent cases of serious respiratory distress in dogs were caused by a virus or bacteria. There’s no indication the illness can spread to humans.