This blog post will share information about our experience with the mysterious dog pneumonia that has been spreading throughout the United States since late 2022. It is a super serious pneumonia that almost took the life of our Anatolian Shepherd, Moses, in February 2023. Below, we’ll cover what we have learned - the causes, symptoms, treatment, and who is studying this to learn more.
You can watch our video here and read more details below.
* Disclosure: We are not vets or experts. We are only sharing our experience in hopes of spreading the word to help save other dogs' lives.
5 Things We Learned From Personal Experience
1. What it is not: It is not kennel cough or dog influenza. This is a viral bacterial pneumonia that is highly contagious, strikes quickly, and can be deadly. It starts as a virus, then turns into a bacterial infection in the lungs = pneumonia. Moses was a little draggy for a few days before getting seriously ill. He had been boarding at his doggy care while we were on vacation a few weeks earlier and we thought he had caught a mild case of kennel cough...but then he tanked (more on that below). The veterinary hospital/ICU we brought Moses to had been dealing with many dogs who were seriously ill with the same symptoms - so we got lucky. They knew how to treat him. Veterinarians who have not seen this pneumonia before may try to treat it with meds for kennel cough but those meds will only hold the symptoms at bay. They will not cure this pneumonia.
2. The Cause: This is the scary part – no one knows what is causing this strain of dog pneumonia or the specific ways dogs are contracting it. It does seem that it is transmitted through exposure from dog to dog, by being in close contact with a dog that is sick. Moses was boarded in early January – but he didn't get noticeably sick until early February, so there may be an incubation period. Over time, we’ve learned this strain of pneumonia affects all sizes and ages of dogs, BUT not all dogs exposed get this pneumonia. Our Labrador, Lewie, who is with Moses day and night never contracted this. Not a cough or sneeze.
3. Symptoms: Recognizing the symptoms is important as this virus sneaks up on dogs. Moses went from being ok to being on death’s doorstep in 24 hours. That’s how quickly this virus evolved into something life-threatening.
- A Cough: Moses had a slight cough for a week or so before getting seriously ill which is why we thought he had kennel cough at first. He was also reverse sneezing.
- Lethargic: If your dog seems uncommonly lethargic (lots of sleeping, not eating, not drinking, not wanting to move), that is a major sign. Moses went from appearing fine to exhibiting extreme exhaustion overnight. What did that look like? He walked outside, vomited up foam, and then lay on the ground. We had to help him stand and walk. He's 150 lbs, so we barely got him into the car to be rushed to the vet.
- Labored Breathing: Rapid, shallow, and laborious breaths. Excessive panting.
- High Fever: An elevated body temperature indicated by not eating, drinking, vomiting, and bouts of shivering, signifies a potential battle with pneumonia. When Moses was checked into the veterinary ICU, his temp was 106.4.
- Vomiting/Foamy Discharge: Another symptom Mo exhibited was vomiting and he also had foamy spittle a few days before – which is common with this pneumonia.
4. Treatment - Taking Charge: What Can You Do About It?
- Act Quickly – If you notice any of the signs above, get your dog to the vet to be looked at ASAP. Early action is the key to a speedy recovery.
- Medication: Moses was diagnosed with viral bacterial pneumonia based on x-rays and a culture. Again, this starts as virus and then becomes a bacterial pneumonia. The two antibiotics that worked to heal Moses were Clavacillin and Baytril (together). Other dogs have been treated with Zeniquin with good results. Thankfully, Moses made a 100% recovery.
- Hydration: If your dog has a high fever, it may need IV fluids to hydrate and give its immune system the boost it needs to fight back.
- Breathing Help: In serious cases, oxygen therapy is necessary. Moses tested very low for O2 when we got him to the hospital and he was put immediately on O2 for about 24 hours.
5. Learning More. This virus is still new and a mystery but Cornell University's College of Veterinary Medicine and the University of California, Davis are diving deep into the mysteries of canine pneumonia and will hopefully give us information we can share in the future.
The most important thing we’ve learned with this virus is that you need to act quickly. The signs that alerted us something was wrong were Moses’s extreme lethargy and vomiting, in addition to his slight cough. If you think your dog is ill, get them to the vet as soon as possible.
If you have experienced this illness in your area, please feel free to comment below with your state and the month/date so people can be aware of where this illness is popping up.
Be well and stay well!
Amy & Ron
These symptoms sound exactly like Valley Fever or Coccidiomycosis; which is endemic in California, Arizona, Oregon, Texas, Utah and Washington, but seen in other arrid states.
Central coast of Oregon. Just picked up our malamute from a Salem veterinary hospital this afternoon. She’s been hospitalized since Saturday with pneumonia, IV fluids/antibiotics and had to be put on oxygen. She was not with any other dogs prior to getting sick, except for approximately a month ago when she spent two days in a nearby kennel. She was up to date on all of her vaccines. She is still very sick, but the vet has released her to me. Her symptoms began with reverse sneezing, excessive lip licking, severely lethargic, excessive panting, and significant decrease in eating or drinking. Was coughing up frothy liquid when I got her to the vet ER, had a fever, very low, oxygen levels, and elevated respiration. This kind of hospital stay is not cheap and I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have pet insurance. My advice to people, if you don’t already have it, invest in good health insurance for your pet.
Thanks to everyone who has posted above. We are so sorry for those with dogs who have been ill and are heartbroken for those of you who have lost your dogs to this. We will share as we find out more information about this pneumonia. Unfortunately, there is not much more to info at this time but we are keeping our eyes and ears out.
We have a 7 month old Goldendoodle. She went into heat last Sat. On Friday, she was fine. Sat we took her to the emergency vet and she had to be put on oxygen. By Sun AM she took a turn for the worst and we had to transfer her to a Boston hospital as they thought she needed to be ventilated. It’s Tuesday and she’s still there. The pneumonia was only on the right side, now on the left. They’re doing more X-rays and ultrasounds. She could be there for up to another week. She’s just a baby.
I’m in Quebec Canada (Laurentians) and my 6 year old German Shepherd has same exact symptoms. Light coughing, followed by lethargy, vomiting (foam), high fever….etc…I had to rush her to Emergency Clinic overnight and was surprised when I got diagnosis of bronchopneumonia. She has just now finished 14 days of Doxycycline – coughing just a little but appetite and energy levels are very good. Our other household dog did not get this YET. Waiting now for Protein CRP blood test results that were taken earlier this week. Keeping fingers crossed all is OK!
I own a boarding kennel here in Ohio. All 4 of my dogs have had the virus. But, one still has it. This is day #78 of coughing. She started along with her daughter on June 21st. I have had her to our regular vet 3 times & an internal medicine vet . She has been on 6 rounds of antibiotics, using hydrocodone & now prednisone. I sent my vet your article & he is now going to try the combination of antibiotics. Thank You so much for putting what they used. Her x rays have all showed bronchitis, but I’m sure it would have been pneumonia if she hasn’t been on the antibiotics. The other 3 have only coughed a small amount recently. I have had 35 dogs that have to the kennel I believe get this same thing. It is Very contagious & of course vaccines didn’t help stopping it. And I kept track of everyone that did get it, the incubation period was all from 25-36 days.
Our 3 year old husky / Shepard mix had a respiratory infection in june. Was treated with antibiotics but didn’t do the full job. She was off the medication for 5 days on a Tuesday I took her for a normal walk in the morning with our toddler. 5 hours later she was lethargic, panting heavily and something was wrong. I called the vet and they brushed it off saying it was her anxiety. By the time my husband got home she was worse and we brought her to an urgent care. She was diagnosed with pneumonia but said it was treatable and she would be fine. 4 hours after that she completely tanked, turned septic, kidneys failing and there was nothing else they could do. This was mid July and we’re still trying to wrap our heads around it. We’re in MA
Our frenchie puppy contracted this on a transport van from Missouri to NH (now looking back I know a transport van was a horrible idea). She started with a slight cough and went downhill quickly….she went from having this slight cough at night to waking up the next morning with labored breathing and wouldn’t eat or drink and had severe lethargy. Thankfully we brought her to an emergency vet in Mass. that treated her correctly. $10,000 later after almost a week in an oxygen tent and iv treatment, we were able to bring her home but there were many nights the vet didn’t know if she would make it. Neither one of my adult labs ever got it. Thankfully she’s fully recovered and totally fine. This was in December of 2022.
my 1.5 year old doberman caught this from daycare. it seemed to worsen overnight. Sunday night she was fine with a slight cough which i assumed to be kennel cough, by monday morning she was lethargic, nose running horribly, and xrays revealed she had an almost complete blockage in her left lungs. when we went to the vet the first time, she was given clavamox, however the bacteria was resistant to the medication. we returned to the vet two days later and she was given two more antibiotics which worked, but she still has a residual cough. it was awful seeing my baby like that
My Great Dane contracted pneumonia after being boarded in Jan 2023. She went downhill very quickly and we did antibiotics, oxygen and IV fluids but she did not respond. She passed after a week. She was almost 8 years old so older for a Great Dane. I thought she must have an underlying condition for her to have gotten so sick and I had no idea this was rampent. I am in Southeastern PA
Our 13 year old pittie got sick in June and had to be hospitalized. Luckily they did chest X-rays and saw it was pneumonia right away. She got it a second time in August along with a severe ear infection which caused a vestibular reaction. Our other three dogs have been unaffected. We are in Houston.
My 6 year old mixed breed dog started out with a cough, foamy spittle and was diagnosed with Kennel cough. Ten days later she was worse, coughing up stringy mucus and was then diagnosed with pneumonia. We are in upstate New York.