Mysterious Respiratory Illness Reported in Several States: What Pet Owners Need to Know

ONALASKA, Wisconsin — Veterinarians across several states in the U.S. are reporting an unusual respiratory illness in dogs, prompting concern and investigation. The mysterious illness has been noted in states like Oregon, Colorado, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island and appears to be spreading quickly.

As area residents prepare to travel with their dogs — and invite guests from afar traveling with their dogs — for Thanksgiving gatherings, experts are concerned the spread could accelerate further.

Symptoms of the illness include coughing, sneezing, nasal or eye discharge and lethargy. Veterinarians believe the illness is likely viral.

"Unlike typical respiratory infections, this one doesn't respond well to antibiotics and has led to severe conditions such as lasting respiratory disease and pneumonia in some cases," said Dr. Nicole Azene, veterinarian and owner at Onalaska Animal Hospital. "It's especially concerning because symptoms can escalate rapidly, making dogs critically ill within just a day or two."

If your dog shows any symptoms, consult your veterinarian immediately. Early detection and intervention can make a significant difference.

However, Azene said the biggest difference comes with prevention and advises bordetella and canine influenza vaccines for healthy dogs.

"Even while we work to determine what this illness is, the flu vaccine is known to reduce the severity of symptoms and, importantly, ward off pneumonia," she said. "Sadly, this illness has progressed to pneumonia and resulted in fatalities for some dogs."

Bordetella and canine influenza vaccines require a three-week booster to be fully effective. So Azene’s best advice for Thanksgiving travels if you’re dog isn’t already fully vaccinated is to limit their interaction with other dogs, especially those from outside the region.

About Onalaska Animal Hospital

Onalaska Animal Hospital opened in 2022, becoming the first new veterinary clinic in La Crosse County in 30 years. Owned by Nicole Azene, DVM, and her husband Ezana Azene, MD, the hospital provides preventive, routine, diagnostic, dental and surgical care in a state-of-the-art facility and fear-free environment. For more information about Onalaska Animal Hospital, visit