Why I’m Not Scared Of The Mystery Dog Respiratory Illness

If you know me at all, you know that my dogs mean everything to me.

Absolutely everything in my life is centered around dogs. I do my best to take care of them and to make sure that they are truly happy.

I recognize my dogs’ values as individuals. And there is nothing I would not do for them. But I’m not going to be frightened by this mystery illness reportedly affecting dogs.

Social media is filled with increasingly distressing headlines and anecdotes of otherwise healthy pets coming down with a raft of symptoms, everything from a hacking cough to sometimes life-threatening complications. Veterinarians say fears about ‘mystery’ dog illness may be overblown.

So when I first heard about this mystery respiratory illness affecting dogs, I wasn’t overly worried. Why? Because I already try to make sure they are their healthiest so that they are fully equipped to fight off not only illness, but other environmental concerns while we travel like pests, including fleas and ticks.

If I would have listened to others from the start, we would have never taken our dogs traveling to different places. We would have never ran thru creeks or took swims in oceans. We would have never played with snow balls or climbed mountains. There are always risks in life, aren’t there? I realized this more than ever a few weeks ago with 14 year old Brickle.

We had spent months in the mountains climbing steep hills to slippery waterfalls. He had done great and didn’t get a scratch!

But then, there we were on a flat, sand trail in Florida, and he tripped very hard over a tree root. He was bleeding and hurt. And although he quickly shook it off, it definitely made me realize that you can have an accident on the safe route. Or you can take precautions, be smart and actually live life.

“It’s entirely possible that there are just a ton of different bugs and viruses causing disease in different parts of the country,” says Dr. Jane Sykes, a professor at UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine who focuses on infectious disease. “We just have to be a bit careful about panicking.”

I’ll never regret the adventures we had when Digby was slowing down.

Sure, we slowed down with him. But we never stopped. And he lived. And for that, I’ll always be thankful that we lived life to the very last second that we couldn’t.

Because the U.S. doesn’t have a robust surveillance system for infectious disease in dogs, it’s hard to track these cases and discern whether anecdotes and scraps of data add up to widespread and concerning patterns.

“Two things keep getting mixed up,” says Dr. Scott Weese, an infectious disease veterinarian at the Ontario Veterinary College. “Do we have more disease? And do we have something new? Because those are not necessarily connected.”

The right decision on how I care for the dogs in ky family may be different than the way you care for your dogs and the decisions that you make. And that’s ok! But I think we can all benefit from different viewpoints and perhaps a stance on the issue in between.

“The three choices are: There is not a new disease out there. There is a disease whose incidence is particularly high right now and it’s a known agent,” says Dr. Kurt Williams, who directs the Oregon Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, “Or there’s truly something new and novel out there.” 

While there’s no official tally, there are now hundreds of cases of an “atypical canine respiratory disease,” according to state health officials and medical organizations in more than a dozen states.

However, Williams cautions this framing can give the impression that a clearly defined disease is spreading. “We have a very poor understanding of the cases clinically,” he says.

If I trusted a daycare or boarding facility and their level of cleanliness and their standards, I would take my dogs for exercise and socializing instead of having a depressed dog.

I also choose to build up my dogs’ immune systems now, before they come in contact with other dogs or even other diseases and risks. A diet of fresh food and supplements that benefit them is implemented each day.

Just like we would prepare for a hiking trip with essentials, we prepare for living life with the essentials too.

Ultimately, we have to make decisions for our own dogs. We know their limitations and their health better than anyone. Use common sense for your individual dog, taking into consideration their age.

We have learned more than ever lately that life is meant to be lived!! Being scared and overly cautious contributes to a lesser quality of life. So do activities with your dog that is right for you both. And don’t stop living.

Their lives are much shorter than ours. Make every day count, be flexible and be safe.

Rachael Johnson

Founder, 2 Traveling Dogs

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