Illinois dogs hit by mysterious respiratory illness as vets scramble for answers

A mysterious respiratory illness is spreading among dogs, and some warn that it could be deadly. It is puzzling veterinarians across the nation, who are still working to pinpoint a cause.

Cases have been reported in several states, including here in Illinois.

The illness, however, is coming at an inconvenient time – with many pet parents already planning to board their dogs this Thanksgiving.

If you are sending your furry friend off to doggy daycare, experts warn that the nasty sickness could leave your pet in a ‘ruff’ situation.

"Those pets that are more likely to be affected are going to be those that go to daycare and dog parks frequently. They are exposed more, kind of like little kids that go to school," said Dr. Jordan Beauchamp, medical director, GoodVets West Loop.

Beauchamp tells FOX 32 Chicago that she's seen more than a dozen cases of the mystery illness at her clinics in the last two weeks alone.

"What sets it apart is that it’s not responding to our normal treatment for respiratory tract infections in our canine patients, and then also that it’s more commonly progressing to pneumonia," said Beauchamp.

In response, Beauchamp says she is using a more aggressive course of treatment to tackle the illness, including two antibiotics and cough tablets. It’s something she says her patients are responding well to.

The illness spreads through nose-to-nose contact and potentially sharing water bowls, according to Beauchamp.

Symptoms include nasal discharge, cough, tiredness, decreased appetite and fever.

"Really as soon as you see the signs, you’re more likely to have a quicker and more successful recovery," said Beauchamp. "The longer it goes on, the harder it is to treat and will then require hospitalization."

If your dog is exhibiting any abnormalities, Beauchamp urges you to take them to the vet as soon as possible.

Until the illness is contained, Beauchamp says limiting exposure to other dogs will help keep your pup healthy for the holidays.

"Just like with people, minimizing contact, so if you can – not taking them to boarding and grooming facilities, daycare and dog parks," said Beauchamp. "If you do already have plans set up at daycare, some will have private areas. Then in their active areas, they will have private time so they don’t get to play with all the other dogs, which can be a little bit of a bummer for them, but they’re less likely to come in contact."

While your dog's standard vaccines may not prevent them from getting sick completely, Beauchamp says those shots are important in protecting them from secondary illnesses.

There is currently no evidence to suggest the illness is spreading from dogs to people or vice versa.

The illness has also been reported in other states, including California, Colorado, Indiana, New Hampshire and Oregon.