Unknown respiratory illness appears to have increased in Texas dogs, veterinarian says

Almost all dogs that have experienced the unknown respiratory illness have survived.

Pitbull being walked by owner.
Daisy Espinoza / Houston Public Media
Pitbull being walked by owner.

A local veterinarian said it's hard to tell if there's a local uptick in a mysterious dog illness going around in Texas.

The unknown respiratory illness has been reported in the state since last week and in other states as well.

Dr. Lori Teller is a veterinarian near the Meyerland area in Houston and a Texas A&M professor at the veterinary school. She said almost all dogs that have experienced the unknown respiratory illness have recovered, but there are some dogs that are more at risk.

"These would be dogs that already have underlying respiratory problems, so asthma, obstructive pulmonary disease, or dogs with underlying heart disease, such as congestive heart failure," Teller said.

She added that there are certain dog breeds that will be more prone to respiratory problems as well, and are also considered higher risk.

"We consider the brachycephalic breeds, those are the dogs with the smushed-in faces like Frenchies and pugs," Teller said.

Many dog illnesses are more difficult to track than human ones because they're not usually reported, Teller said. While a dog can get sick, there's no form of tracking respiratory illnesses. However, Teller said she has seen dogs with respiratory infections recently.

"It's just hard to know if people are talking about [the illness] more, versus is there really an uptick in the number of cases?" she said. "I can't say that we've really seen an increase, but we have definitely seen some respiratory infections."

Teller said the illness is spread from dog to dog, so she recommended avoiding dog parks and pet daycares for the time being as a precautionary measure.

"But we also know it's the holiday time, people will be traveling, they may be traveling with their dog, or they may have to board their dog. And we don't want to tell people to cancel their holiday plans because it does not appear to be something that would require that extreme event of a measure," she said. "Make sure that your dog is currently vaccinated against the respiratory diseases that we know that we can help protect them from... so that if your dog gets sick, definitely not going to be sick as a dog that has not been protected."