Last Updated on November 30, 2023

Dogs in at least 14 states have contracted a mysterious respiratory illness, and the number of cases in California appears to be growing. The illness’s cause has yet to be identified and it does not reliably respond to standard treatments. While no confirmed cases have been reported in the Bay Area, it’s only a matter of time until this mystery bug rears its ugly head in Contra Costa County. Which is why we are preparing to do everything we can to keep the dogs in our care healthy, safe, and mystery illness-free.  

While the illness is getting a lot more attention in the news and social media lately, the number of chronic and/or severe cases of respiratory illness in dogs has been on the rise since the beginning of 2023, according to the Joybound veterinary team.   

“No one actually knows what it is, and I haven’t heard of anyone local with a case as of today (December 5),” said Joybound veterinarian Dr. Heather Budgin. “The disease appears to be spread by close contact with sick dogs, such as nose-to-nose greetings.”  

What to Look For 

Because the illness can escalate quickly from a cough to pneumonia, it is important that it’s treated as soon as possible. The illness typically starts with a cough, similar to kennel cough, and symptoms such as sneezing, wheezing or other differences in breathing patterns, dehydration, fever, nasal or eye discharge, loss of appetite, and lethargy.  

Joybound veterinarian Dr. Marissa Parkhurst shared that researchers at the University of New Hampshire’s Veterinary Diagnosis Laboratory have potentially discovered a new bacterium that could be the cause. They are currently sequencing the bacterium, which is the first step to finding the most effective treatment. Until then, dog caregivers should take a few extra precautions to reduce their pet’s risk of contracting the illness.  

How to Prevent Illness and Stop the Spread 

  • With this mystery illness in the mix, it’s more important than ever to ensure your dog is up to date on all their vaccinations, especially Bordetella; canine influenza (CIV); and distemper, hepatitis, parainfluenza, and parvovirus (DHPP). 
  • Avoid tight, indoor areas where dogs are in close contact, especially boarding facilities.  
  • Don’t let your dog play with communal toys at parks that other dogs may have had in their mouths.  
  • If your dog shows any of the symptoms listed above for more than a couple days, call your veterinarian.  

Here at Joybound, we are monitoring any suspected cases and taking extra precautions to keep the dogs in our facility infection-free and quarantine any sick dogs that show any sign of possibly carrying the mystery illness. For more information about the illness and precautions to take, please visit these sources: