A mysterious respiratory infection is making its way through some doggy daycares and boarding houses in New Hampshire. It starts with symptoms that resemble kennel cough, a common respiratory infection for dogs, but rapidly progresses to pneumonia, even in otherwise healthy dogs.
The cases started at a single dog care facility but have since spread to other nearby organizations, Dr. Virginia Sinnott-Stutzman from MSPCA-Angell told Boston.com after talking with a veterinarian from the Veterinary Emergency Center of Manchester in New Hampshire.
“I think the most concerning thing is that the cases that they had in New Hampshire started with one doggy daycare and have quickly spread into the surrounding area,” Sinnott-Stutzman, the chair of MSPCA-Angell’s infection control committee, said.
Sinnott-Stutzman said the staff at MSPCA-Angell hasn’t seen any cases yet, but the chance of it spreading from New Hampshire to Massachusetts is very real. Even so, it is not cause for panic for dog owners across the commonwealth, more just something to be aware of, Sinnott-Stutzman said.
“The cause for concern for Boston and Massachusetts dogs is fairly low, maybe higher for those that are bordering that area of New Hampshire,” she said.
The area of New Hampshire in question is near Nashua, Milford, and Manchester.
Sinnott-Stutzman’s advice for dog owners near New Hampshire is simple: maybe consider pulling their dog from any boarding service, if possible.
“If I was anywhere near that area, I would be saying, ‘You know what, I’m not sold that doggy daycare is all that much better for my dog than getting a chew bone and a Kong … so I might just pull them out. That would be my only action step” she said.
If people are planning to travel to the affected area, Sinnott-Stutzman suggests avoiding boarding the animals for any reason, so as to limit possible exposure. She said veterinarians in New Hampshire have already treated some dogs from Massachusetts who were in town.
The garlic, which hasn’t been identified via testing yet, presents like kennel cough, Sinnott-Stutzman said.
“This is one of those diagnoses that’s sort of made by like very classic signs and a very classic story. The dogs typically are coughing, and not just like the occasional one cough, but like coughing and then it is self perpetuating until they actually gag or retch,” she said.
The dog’s throat is often very irritated and it may be a dry cough.
“The thing that makes the diagnosis for us is that it’s an otherwise healthy dog, with a recent, meaning in the last 10 days, history of being exposed to other dogs, typically through boarding or training facilities or daycares, occasionally dog parks,” Sinnott-Stutzman said. “Just like with COVID being inside is more likely to spread any sort of infection than being outside.”
Doctors in New Hampshire have started treating dogs presenting with these symptoms more aggressively than normal, Sinnott-Stutzman said, oftentimes recommending chest X-rays to screen for any pneumonia.
“The doctors up in New Hampshire feel like dogs respond to antibiotics. I can’t speak to that because I know viral pneumonia will get better, if it’s gonna get better, in about the same time that you would attribute to antibiotics,” Sinnott-Stutzman said. “I’ve told our vets to use them until we get an alternate diagnosis.”
Sinnott-Stutzman said if someone’s pet is to get sick and they have traveled to New Hampshire recently, the owners should share that information with their veterinarian.
“If my dog got sick from it, obviously I’d be worried that it might become a pneumonia,” she said. “And there have been a couple animals that have died, but they were not the healthiest to begin with. So I would be more like, ‘OK, we’ve just got to be ready to hospitalize and do fluids and antibiotics.’ And not like, ‘Oh my god, my dog is gonna die.’”
Stay up to date on all the latest news from Boston.com