(NEXSTAR) — Dogs across the country have been coming down with a mystery illness recently, prompting concerns for pet parents.
Multiple states — including Colorado, California, Oregon, and New Hampshire —have reported cases of the illness, which has caused lasting respiratory disease and pneumonia and does not respond to antibiotics. In some dogs, the illness has been fatal.
Symptoms of the respiratory illness include coughing, sneezing, nasal or eye discharge and lethargy. Some cases of the pneumonia progress quickly, making dogs very sick within 24 to 36 hours.
But if you have a different furry pet, should you be concerned?
Whether it’s a cat or another pet, early indications seem to show that they aren’t getting the illness.
Dr. Lindsey Ganzer, a veterinarian and the owner and CEO of North Springs Veterinary Referral Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, told Good Morning America that so far, the illness has only been seen in dogs.
She went on to note that bacteria and viruses won’t spread from species to species, meaning if your dog has it, your cat isn’t guaranteed to catch it too.
You also won’t get sick from the mystery illness. Dr. David Needle, pathology section chief at the University of New Hampshire, told USA Today that research conducted by his team shows the sickness is more likely to stick with the host it knows — in this case, dogs. There have been no reported cases of the illness in species other than dogs.
It isn’t uncommon for dogs and cats to get respiratory infections. They’re most often seen during the fall and winter months, Daniel Joffe, a veterinarian and vice president of medical operations with animal hospital network VCA Canada, told CBC.
It’s still unclear what is causing the current mystery illness in dogs. Scientists at the University of New Hampshire’s Veterinary Diagnosis Laboratory and the Hubbard Center for Genome Studies believe it may be caused by a pathogen.
More specifically, the germ may have evolved from “a component of the dog microbiome,” Dr. David Needle, pathology section chief at the University of New Hampshire, told NBC News. Despite the findings, more research is necessary to confirm the results.
For now, experts say you shouldn’t panic. There are some steps you can take to protect your dog against respiratory illnesses.
Among those is decreasing contact with other dogs, especially those who are ill, and watching for the warning signs of the mystery illness. Dr. Karl Jandrey, associate dean and professor at U.C. Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, tells Nexstar that those signs include:
- Increased respiratory rate and effort
- Malaise or lethargy
- Less interest in food
- Runny nose
If you notice any of these in your dog, you should contact your veterinarian immediately.
While cats aren’t catching the current canine illness, they can contract upper and lower respiratory tract infections. According to the Cornell Feline Health Center at Cornell University, cats may experience the following symptoms if they have a respiratory illness:
- Clear or colored discharge from the eyes or nose
- Coughing and sneezing
- Swelling of mucous membranes around the eyes
- Mouth ulcers
- Difficult or rapid breathing
Difficulties breathing is rare in upper respiratory tract infections. If your cat is experiencing these symptoms, you should contact your veterinarian.
As for the mystery illness dogs are catching, multiple agencies are working to determine its cause. That includes the Oregon Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory and the USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratory.
The Associated Press and Jeremy Tanner contributed to this report.
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