First the disclaimer..….the following is not, in any way, intended to be a conspiracy theory or a hint that the recent increase in an unusual respiratory disease in dogs in the Boston area is related to the human Corona virus in Asia. However, in our practice since late November, 2019 we have treated several patients for an unusual pneumonia (usually mild) that seems to be persistent and often occurs in households where a human member has been ill with a nagging cough. Frequently these cases are misdiagnosed as “canine infectious respiratory disease” or CIRD (commonly known as Kennel Cough) yet the symptoms persist long past the couple of weeks one would generally expect. Also, unlike CIRD that is usually confined to the upper respiratory tract (trachea, bronchi), Mycoplasma (the responsible bacteria for this recent outbreak) is an organism that tends to affect the lower respiratory tract or the lungs. Although the connection with humans is unclear, in several of the cases we have diagnosed in dogs, there has been human respiratory illness present in the house. There is some question whether this bacteria is passed from human to animal or vice versa, but two things remains clear. Both humans and dogs are susceptible and we have clearly seen a significant increase in our area.
So what can you do? Many of the same recommendations that are made for any contagious disease or flu still apply:
1. Wash your hands when leaving and returning to your house.
2. If your dog is affected, keep him or her away from other dogs until the signs have regressed (unfortunately, often several weeks).
3. Even though this is a different disease than CIRD (kennel cough), it is a good idea to immunize your dog against kennel cough to avoid a secondary infection.
4. If you or your dog are showing signs of respiratory disease, best to avoid contacting each other’s saliva or nasal discharge. (Yes that means try to avoid kissing that lovable face).
5. Always cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
The good news….even though Mycoplasma can result in pneumonia, it is not considered to be fatal. As the cough can last several weeks, and the signs can progress to appetite loss and lethargy, early diagnosis and intervention are important. Though this is quite the odd coincidence, this is not nearly as serious as the human Corona. And, for the record, my wife and I recently spent time in China and Thailand. Fortunately we arrived just as the Corona outbreak was beginning and left before it became the epidemic that it now is. How’s that for timing? (And yes we have been back for over a month so now we should be safe 🙂