A photo of sick Chihuahua dog.

Pneumonia in Dogs? Deadly New Respiratory Epidemic Plagues Man's Best Friend

by Matt Collins

Pneumonia in dogs is rarely (if ever) a concern.

After all, your family pet can't exactly tell you he's feeling sick.

And aside from a little sluggishness, a wet snout, and the occasional sniffle, you'd probably never notice it.

In reality, however, household dogs get sick about as often as humans do. They can get colds, allergies, and a variety of other illnesses. These colds tend to pass on their own—including pneumonia, which can be slightly worse on your pup.

But a mysterious new respiratory disease is potentially fatal, and it's already spread to sixteen different states across the US, from California, Portland, and Washington to the West, to Florida, Georgia, and Maryland in the East.

Typical symptoms of the newly identified canine illness.

Common symptoms of the mysterious new canine illness. (Image courtesy of Schwartzman Animal Medical Center.)

This mysterious disease has symptoms that are similar to pneumonia in dogs. But its cause (and any potential cure or treatment) remains unknown.

It's called atypical Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease (aCIRD), and this latest dog news has both veterinarians and pet owners on high alert.

So far, it's impossible to detect using conventional testing methods. It's also resistant to all known treatment methods. And experts don't have the first idea of how it works. 

With this in mind, we're going to take a closer look at aCIRD. We'll look at what's causing these extreme cases of pneumonia in dogs and what you can do to keep your pup safe.

Let's get started… 


Table of Contents

  • 01

    Common Canine Respiratory Illnesses

  • 02

    What Makes aCIRD so Different

  • 03

    What to Do if Your Dog is Infected

  • 04

    How to Protect Your Pup

  • 05

    Final Thoughts

  • 06

    Frequently Asked Questions

Common Canine Respiratory Illnesses

Just like humans, dogs are susceptible to various respiratory illnesses, including pneumonia, colds, and more. These illnesses can significantly impact their overall health.

Like many other mammals, dogs have a respiratory system that delivers oxygen to the body's cells and removes carbon dioxide, which plays a key role in supporting the dog's other bodily systems. If the respiratory system malfunctions, these other systems will rapidly begin to break down.

Pneumonia in dogs is often associated with persistent coughing, which may be dry or accompanied by mucus production. 

You may also observe labored breathing or rapid breaths, nasal discharge, sneezing, and a bluish tint to the gums or tongue, which are also indicators of potential respiratory distress. Lethargy and reduced activity levels may result from the additional effort required for breathing.

The potential causes for these illnesses are numerous.

Bacterial, viral, or fungal infections can affect the respiratory system. Kennel cough, canine influenza, and pneumonia are infectious respiratory diseases. Environmental factors like pollen, dust, mold, or certain foods can manifest as respiratory symptoms. 

The recently identified canine illness poses challenges in differentiation from common respiratory issues.

New canine illness is difficult to distinguish from common respiratory issues. (Image courtesy of ABC30)

If and when respiratory symptoms arise, you must contact a veterinarian immediately. 

Only a vet can perform the physical examination, X-rays, blood tests, and, in some cases, culture and sensitivity testing needed to identify the specific cause of illness. Allergy testing may also be conducted to pinpoint allergens triggering respiratory symptoms.

Obviously, treatment programs will vary based on the underlying cause. 

Antibiotics are prescribed for bacterial infections, while antivirals may be recommended for viral conditions. Anti-inflammatories and bronchodilators can help alleviate symptoms; in severe cases, oxygen therapy may be necessary. 

Like so many other illnesses, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure for pneumonia in dogs.

Avoiding potential exposure (more on that below) and avoiding risk by staying up-to-date with your dog's vaccinations can be life-saving. As such, it would be best to keep up with your regular veterinary check-ups and carefully manage your dog's environment to account for allergens and other potential irritants.

Likewise, when it comes to maintaining a healthy weight for your pup. We all love to give our dogs treats, but obesity can exacerbate underlying respiratory issues, especially in those breeds predisposed to respiratory problems.

Depending on the season and your general location, any number of respiratory illnesses can affect your dog, ranging from a mild cold that lasts a few days to a potentially fatal and treatment-resistant infection. 

Historically, dogs' significant respiratory distress has been relatively rare—and conventional treatments have been highly effective.

But a new kind of pneumonia in dogs is starting to change all that… 

What Makes aCIRD so Different

aCIRD starts like many canine sicknesses (especially pneumonia in dogs). Infected animals will have a fever or a cough and be lethargic while moving around the house.

The new illness is distinguished by a phenomenon called "tracheobronchitis." As the name implies, it's a bit like bronchitis. But both the trachea and the bronchi are inflamed. This condition can persist for six to eight weeks, with some dogs struggling to breathe and others showing nasal discharge.

In some extreme cases, aCIRD can be lethal in as little as twenty four to thirty six hours. It's believed that dogs with pre-existing respiratory conditions can be more "at-risk," leading to the rarer (but more rapid) fatal cases.

The illness is proving especially vicious for dogs bred for short snouts and flat faces—like French bulldogs and pugs. These animals are predisposed to respiratory illness, with some struggling to breathe comfortably, even on the best days.

But that's really all we know.

Aside from symptoms, the disease remains mostly a mystery. For the most part, it manifests as an extreme case of pneumonia in dogs. Otherwise, it's too early to know how it should be treated and what pet owners should do differently than they would if their pet had a simple cold.

Once again, this disease has rapidly become a nationwide threat.

The mysterious respiratory illness in canines spreads nationwide from coast to coast.

Mysterious new canine respiratory illness spreads from coast to coast. (Image courtesy of CBS)

This is especially problematic since no one knows how to prevent this illness's spread. 

It doesn't appear on any existing tests using Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR). And it's almost completely unresponsive to antibiotics. 

Oregon alone has already reported 200 cases of aCIRD so far.

In all likelihood, this sickness is just beginning to spread.  

So what happens if your pup gets sick?

What to Do if Your Dog is Infected

It's important to remember that there are a million reasons why your dog might get the sniffles or start coughing.

So, we shouldn't start leaping to conclusions. Especially if you haven't heard of any documented aCIRD cases in your area. In the words of veterinarian Dr. Arun Rustgi, "You shouldn't overly worry, but you should be worried."

If your dog gets sick, you should try not to panic. Most cases of this new illness are not fatal. The worst cases seem to affect pups with preexisting conditions, and they tend to escalate quickly. 

So, if your dog only exhibits a low-grade cough and laziness that's only a little above average, he might have a cold.

But instead of taking your dog to the vet, most experts recommend you phone it in. Explain the dog's symptoms, and your vet should be able to walk you through treatment for the virus if that's needed.

X-ray image of pneumonia in dogs.

X-ray image of pneumonia in dogs. (Image courtesy of Kingsdale Animal Hospital)

According to Dr Rustgi, there's one key consideration you shouldn't overlook: "Make sure they stay hydrated." 

Serious illness can compromise your dog's immune system, leaving it open to bacterial infections that only worsen things. Antibiotics may be necessary in these cases, so you should keep an open line of communication with your veterinarian.

Dogs known to be suffering from the sickness should be isolated at home for at least twenty-eight days after first onset. Those dogs believed to be exposed should be quarantined at home for fourteen days and monitored for clinical signs.

If your dog is sick, you should keep it away from all "social" locations, including boarding kennels, grooming facilities, dog parks or day care. 

Even if your dog is perfectly healthy, we still recommend steering clear of these types of facilities. Social enrichment just doesn't seem like it's worth the health risk for the time being.

We would also recommend considering next-level pet protection, just in case…  

How to Protect Your Pup

If you're in an area with the threat of aCIRD exposure and it's no longer possible to shelter your dog at home, then safe transport is still possible.

The FirstBreed Collapsible Animal Ark is a portable, enclosed shelter that can safely transport pets through environments with known CBRN risks (including pneumonia in dogs).

MIRA Safety's FirstBreed Collapsible Animal Ark.

This special shelter is tear-resistant and scratch-resistant, large enough for small dogs, cats, and other pets (up to 22 lbs), and folds up for easy storage. 

The Ark is effectively an oversized gas mask for dogs, using gas mask filters and equipment to create a safe environment for transporting your pets.

The same Animal Ark can protect your pets in various dangerous situations, including wildfire evacuation, the aftermath of a nuclear attack, and more. It's the ultimate protection for four-legged members of your family.

The FirstBreed Collapsible Animal Ark uses a separate MB-90 Powered Air-Purifying Respirator (PAPR) to automatically pump air and create positive pressure within the enclosure.

MIRA Safety's MB-90 Powered Air-Purifying Respirator (PAPR).

This same PAPR can be used to optimize performance while wearing your own gas mask or provide critical breathing aid to younger and older members of your family who might not otherwise have the lung power to operate a full-face gas mask.

Finally, you'll need gas mask filters; the NBC-77 SOF is your best choice.

The NBC-77 SOF will protect your pets from every known CBRN threat, including everything from nerve agents to nuclear fallout to pneumonia in dogs. These are the same filters we recommend for adults & children, with an unrivaled 20-year shelf life for lasting protection.

Final Thoughts

America is currently in the midst of a severe pet pandemic.

The United States Department of Agriculture is already pooling resources across multiple labs to learn more about this deadly new type of pneumonia in dogs—and potentially figure out a cure.

But until then, America's dog owners are left to fend for themselves.

This new illness has surged from relative obscurity to spread across sixteen states in months. It will likely spread past the end of this year's flu season, potentially reaching a large percentage of America's 90 million dogs.

Three Australian Shepherd puppies sitting next to each other.

(Image courtesy of The American Kennel Club)

For now, with no known cure, avoidance is the only answer. So if your dog shows signs of illness, keep the pup at home for at least fourteen days under close watch.

And even if your dog isn't sick, you should keep him (or her) around the house. These diseases, after all, are most likely to spread in those "social" locations mentioned above—dog parks, groomers, and boarding facilities. 

As such, we recommend avoiding these locations, letting the dog's hair get a little shaggy, and maybe taking your dog along for the holiday vacation. For now, at least, it's better to avoid potential exposure altogether.

If you can't avoid that exposure, solutions are available (like the FirstBreed Animal Ark). Just like a human needs a gas mask, your four-legged friends need respiratory protection.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is pneumonia in dogs fatal?
What's the cure for pneumonia in dogs?
Is pneumonia in dogs worse for certain breeds?