BILLINGS — A mystery dog illness has been popping up across the nation for the last few months that resembles kennel cough but lasts much longer and has the potential to turn into a fatal case of pneumonia.
The illness is not responding to typical treatments and is transferred from dog to dog at dog parks, kennels and shelters.
Tahnee Szymanski, Montana's state veterinarian, said the illness is new so confirming cases is difficult, but it does appear some cases could be popping up in the state.
“I think that if we are seeing cases in Bozeman and Missoula, and they really are kind of consistent with national level, I think it's very likely that it will pop up in other areas,” Szymanski said earlier this week. “The challenging thing about this is there’s probably more that we don’t know at this time than we do know.”
While the cases are not confirmed to be the new dog illness, which does not have a name, Gallatin County does have a high concentration of potential cases. Szymanski said the county is reporting 20 to 50 cases per clinic that has seen dogs with symptoms similar to the ones in the dozen other states that have confirmed the illness.
Szymanski recommends pet owners work with their local vets if they fear their dog may have the illness.
While the illness is thought to be typically contracted in areas where dogs gather socially, Jodi Mackay, the owner of Molly & Friends in Laurel, a boarding and dog daycare facility, said they are continuing to practice their sanitizing strategy of cleaning dog bowls after each feeding and frequently switching out water bowls.
“The whole building is sanitized as well. So it’s a really important thing and that’s been our best practice since we opened,” Mackay said.
She understands that some dog owners may be fearful at this time, but she wants them to know they are taking precautions at their facility.
“Sending dogs home if they’re sick or asking parents to not bring them if they’re not feeling good,” she said. “As of right now, I don’t feel like it's different than any other season. But if parents are worried they can contact their vet. We definitely recommend that kennel cough vaccination. It's required annually but we recommend every six months.”
Symptoms of the new illness are coughing and changes to appetite and energy levels. No cases have been reported in the Billings area.