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What is the mystery dog illness? Update on CIRD in dogs
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What is the mystery dog illness? Update on CIRD in dogs

Veterinarians tackle unusual spike in Canine Upper Respiratory Disease

The news about the mystery dog illness has put many dog parents from within our community, including myself, on edge as there is still little known with certainty about what has caused this outbreak.

Today, I want to share with you what I know about the situation at the moment, what veterinarians are saying, and what you can do to help strengthen your dog's immune system naturally. 

Starting with the summer of 2023, American and Canadian dog lovers and veterinary communities have been confronted with a rise in cases of Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease (CIRD) among dogs, a situation that has sparked widespread concern and discussion across the nation.

According to recent discussions and reports, veterinarians are observing symptoms in dogs that deviate what you typically see in dogs with kennel cough.

These symptoms include high fever, severe lethargy, persistent coughing, tracheal sensitivity, and in some cases, vomiting. Alarmingly, several of these cases have progressed rapidly to severe pneumonia, leading to a swift decline in health and, in some instances, fatalities.

The geographical spread of this mystery dog illness is notable, with reports coming from various regions, indicating that the issue is widespread. However, there is inconsistency in these reports, with some areas witnessing a significant surge in cases of canine respiratory illness while others haven't yet observed anything unusual.

What causes the mysterious respiratory illness in dogs and how is it treated?

Among the veterinary community, there is ongoing speculation about the potential causes of this outbreak.

While some veterinarians ponder over the possibility of a resurgence of canine flu or a link to COVID-19, others are concerned about the emergence of a new, unidentified pathogen. The lack of concrete evidence supporting these theories adds to the uncertainty.

Faced with these unusual and severe cases, veterinarians are approaching treatment with heightened caution. The response to treatment, particularly antibiotics, has been varied across cases, suggesting that the root cause of the disease might be viral rather than bacterial.

The good news is that the veterinary community is actively collaborating, sharing observations, and discussing treatment approaches in an effort to better understand and manage these infections. Many are advocating for more thorough testing and reporting, which could speed up the process of finding the best way to help dog parents and their companions in the months to come.

As the issue gains more and more national media attention, veterinarians are advising dog parents to remain calm and follow professional guidance as in any other medical treatment of canine respiratory infections.

8 steps to increase your dog's immunity against respiratory disease

1. Feed a balanced natural diet

Provide your dog with a high-quality, balanced diet that is as natural as possible. This may include raw or minimally processed foods. A diet rich in nutrients can support the immune system and helps prevent disease.

Recipe Maker

2. Improve gut health with canine probiotics

As a significant part of the immune system is located in the gastrointestinal tract, supporting a healthy gut is critical to help protect your dog against respiratory illness. Check out our other blogs to learn more about the role of probiotics in canine health.


3. Have a regular exercise routine

Maintain regular exercise appropriate to your dog's breed, age, and health status. Exercise strengthens the whole body and helps in stress reduction, which is crucial for healthy immune function.  

Here is a link to an article on safe exercise for dogs.

4. Provide adequate rest and reduce stress

Ensure your dog has a quiet, comfortable place to rest and gets enough sleep. Minimize stress as much as possible, as chronic stress can weaken the immune system.

5. Keep your dog hydrated

Provide access to clean, fresh filtered water at all times. Chlorinated water can degrade your dog’s intestinal microbiome and weaken its immune response, so it's best to avoid it. 

6. Avoid over-vaccination and unnecessary medications

Follow a vaccination schedule that is appropriate for your dog's specific risk exposure and health condition. Excessive, unnecessary vaccination may lead to decreased overall immunity.

Here is link to a Safer Vaccination Protocol for puppies and dogs

In general, I don't recommend the kennel cough vaccine as I've often seen it causing upper respiratory tract disease symptoms in dogs.

You can read more about kennel cough and our recommendations in the article Kennel cough in dogs - 10 steps for natural treatment and prevention.

7. Boost health and immunity with essential natural supplements

Double your dog’s Omega-3 and probiotics dose to reduce inflammation and naturally boost the immune system.

Add plant-based calcium and minerals and a fermented multivitamin for dogs to nourish your dog's body with the essential nutrients it needs for optimal health.

To create a custom supplement plan for your dog click below:

8. Maintain a healthy environment

Provide a safe and toxin-free living environment. Avoid exposure to harmful chemicals, both in the home and outdoors, as they can compromise your dog's immune system. 

Use a gentle herbal liver detox to cleanse your dog's body of toxins and heavy metals and boost the immune system.

If you are concerned about airborne pathogens, consider investing in a HEPA-filter-equipped air purifier.

What else can you do to keep your dog protected?

If you live in an area where the risk of canine respiratory disease is higher, try to avoid contact with sick dogs and steer clear of areas such as crowded dog parks. If your dog requires grooming or daycare, a house call grooming service and at home dog sitting is the safest option.

At the same time, do not let fear and worry rule over your interactions with your dog or with others. Stress is known to lower the immune system and safe healthy social interactions are an important part of a healthy and disease free life. 

Following the steps outlined above, keeping informed, and taking common-sense precautions is the best you can do for your canine companion and your peace of mind. 

IMPORTANT: If your dog displays symptoms of upper respiratory disease, such as coughing and difficulty breathing, avoid contact with other dogs to prevent spreading the infection, and contact your veterinarian before making an appointment to bring your dog to the clinic.


About the author

Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM is an Integrative veterinarian, nutritionist and creator of natural supplements for dogs and people. Helping you and your dog prevent disease, treat nutritional deficiencies, and enjoy happier, healthier, and longer lives together.

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