A wave of canine respiratory illness across at least 16 states has many people concerned about a "mystery" ailment affecting dogs—but experts who spoke to the New York Times say the explanation could be a lot more simple. There's little to no evidence of a "new highly transmissible pathogen," according to one expert who's been monitoring disease patterns, though one team of scientists is looking into the possibility of a newly discovered bacterium playing a role. Experts say it could actually be a number of common viruses and bacteria causing the outbreaks—it's not clear whether all the affected dogs are even infected with the same illness. Hundreds of dogs have been affected, and some have died, USA Today reports.
And then there's the fact that during the COVID pandemic, many Americans adopted dogs, and many dogs stayed away from other dogs, thus possibly leaving them with little immunity to canine ailments, the experts add. The current outbreaks seem to be linked to crowded settings such as doggie day cares, boarding facilities, kennels, and dog parks. In addition, canine vaccinations went down during the pandemic when it was more challenging to take animals to the vet, so some dogs may have even less immunity to common pathogens. To protect dogs, owners are advised to get them up to date on vaccines and avoid areas with a large number of other dogs. (More dogs stories.)