Mysterious dog illness update: Researchers find more evidence of potential novel pathogen

Posted at 3:01 PM, Jan 30, 2024

Since late spring to early summer of 2022, researchers at the University of New Hampshire have been looking into the respiratory syndrome that went on to impact hundreds of dogs across the country in recent months – instilling fear in dog owners, worried about boarding or visits to dog parks.

According to one of the lead researchers, David Needle, they are making progress in their investigation.

Needle is the pathology section chief at the New Hampshire Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory and clinical associate professor at the University of New Hampshire in the College of Life Sciences and Agriculture.

"Our investigation has continued and every piece of data that we have generated has continued to support our initial interpretation that we may have identified a new pathogen or a potential new pathogen."

Click here to read additional preliminary findings from The Hubbard Center for Genome Studies (HCGS) and the New Hampshire Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (NHVDL) at UNH.

The report, published January 25, indicates "In total there have been 31/226 dog with presence of genetic material from this potential pathogen."

"Concern, not fear is appropriate. So, I do think if you're in an area where there's an outbreak of any type of disease, respiratory disease, diarrhea, something else, like probably don't go to the dog park, probably don't board your dog in a facility."

"Just talk to your vet. Your vet's going to be your number one touch point for most things."

It wasn't too long ago when we saw cases of this canine infectious respiratory disease complex (kennel cough) showing up across the country.

Late last year, we interviewed a vet and a dog owner whose 13-year-old Maltese got sick around the holidays and antibiotics weren't working.

"There are antibiotics that attack cell wall production, but this bacteria that we think might be a pathogen doesn't make a cell wall."

"We're literally just generating the data as well as we possibly can. And when the data comes in, we then see what it tells us. And so, each little point has put us a little bit slowly and slowly towards our initial interpretation that we think we found a new pathogen."

Needle says his team will continue to apply for funding so they can further their analysis in hopes that helps determine the proper treatment in dogs. But he adds that funding for non-livestock research like this can be limited.

"These events happen, the research happens in small drifts and drabs from money that people have on hand in small amounts to cover pilot projects and stuff."

"We have reached out and been contacted by some foundations that seem to be interested in earnest and so we're working on preparing applications for funding and we're in discussions to do that."