Lincoln veterinarian addresses unusual dog respiratory illness, offers guidance to dog owners

Dec. 8, 2023, 3:31 p.m. ·

A woman in medical scrubs listens to the heartbeat of a small dog on a table.
(Photo by Xcaret Nuñez, Harvest Public Media)

During the holiday season, cases with symptoms different from typical kennel cough have been observed in Nebraska.

Emily Kerl, a veterinarian with Ehlers Animal Care in Lincoln, said it's common to see respiratory illness around this time of the year. Situations like boarding and doggy daycare are reasons why numbers tend to increase.

However, Kerl said they have noticed a few cases that are not responding as quickly to treatment.

“We're seeing more cases of respiratory illness that's lasting two to four weeks. A typical respiratory illness we see symptoms tend to resolve in seven to 10 days following treatment,” Kerl said.

Across the country, outbreaks have been reported of the unknown respiratory illness, affecting hundreds of dogs. No confirmed cases have been reported in Nebraska.

Kerl suggests that it can be difficult to know for certain if cases are different from the usual respiratory illness, but she does know the illnesses she is seeing present a hacking cough.

Other symptoms include, lethargy, nasal discharge, fever, and low appetite. Kerl said these symptoms are not out of the ordinary but what is unusual is the duration.

However, she said the majority of cases are mild and treatable. Some cases she has seen have progressed to pneumonia, but none have resulted in death.

“We're using broad spectrum antibiotics and antitussive or basically cough suppression support for the majority of cases, if they have a fever we will often treat the fever with an anti inflammatory medication as well,” Kerl said.

Some precautions Ehlers Animal Care is taking to prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses is having dogs presenting these symptoms enter through a door different from the main entrance and keep them isolated during the entire visit. Additionally veterinarians are wearing PPE and sanitizing between visits.

Kerl advises pet owners to keep vaccinations up to date, reduce contact with unfamiliar dogs, and avoid shared water bowls.

“Definitely give your vet a call because we can get some of those fears set aside and be able to treat appropriately,” she said.