Could a 'funky' new bacteria be behind US dog health crisis? Researchers suggests so
The unknow disease sweeping across the US causes dogs to cough up blood, develop pneumonia and, in some cases, die.
A new type of bacteria may be behind a mysterious respiratory disease that has been affecting dogs across the US, according to a new study.
The disease causes dogs to cough up blood, develop pneumonia and, in some cases, die.
Researchers from the University of New Hampshire have identified the bacteria by analyzing samples from 70 dogs who showed symptoms of the disease in the past two years.
The bacteria is very small and has few genetic features, making it difficult to detect. It is also unknown to science and has no name yet.
Dr David Needle, a veterinary pathologist who led the study, tagged the bacteria as a ‘funky’ organism that probably evolved from the normal bacteria that live in dogs’ guts.
He told NBC News that this was “new as a potential cause of disease, but it is likely to be — or to have evolved from — a component of the dog microbiome [millions of bacteria found inside the animals’ gut].”
The study, which has not been peer-reviewed yet, tested samples from 30 sick dogs from New Hampshire and 40 from Rhode Island and Massachusetts.
They found the bacteria in 21 of the 30 New Hampshire samples and in most of the samples from the other two states.
The disease first appeared last year and has since spread to eight states, including Oregon, Colorado, California, Indiana, Idaho, Georgia, Florida, and Washington.
Several dogs have died from the disease, which can cause a chronic cough that lasts for weeks and does not respond to antibiotics.
In some cases, dogs can also develop severe pneumonia, which can lead to breathing problems, nasal discharge, fatigue, and loss of appetite.
Dogs can become critically ill within two days of developing pneumonia.
Vets suspect the disease is transmitted by respiratory droplets that are released when dogs sneeze, cough, or bark.
They have not found any evidence of the disease infecting humans.
To prevent the disease, vets recommend dog owners to keep their pets up to date on vaccines, especially those for canine influenza, Bordetella, and parainfluenza.
They also advise owners to check with their vets before letting their dogs interact with other dogs in their area.
Some vets also suggest owners avoid traveling with their dogs during Thanksgiving, to limit the risk of spreading the infection.
They also recommend owners leave their dogs at home and hire dog sitters, rather than sending them to kennels.