Tri-Cities woman says her dog might have had mystery respiratory illness
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JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – A Tri-Cities woman said her dog might have had the unknown new respiratory illness that has been affecting canines.

While there still has been no official confirmation of cases in Tennessee, the illness has been confirmed in 14 other states.

Lori Darter said her 5-month-old Australian Shepherd, Luka, started coughing around mid-May earlier this year.

After his cough went away, a few weeks later, he developed a fever and tiredness.

Darter was out of town when Luka first was taken to the vet for symptoms. They called and said he felt warm. They took him to the vet, where he was given IV fluids and watched overnight.

Luka felt better the next morning and was able to leave. A few days later, he started showing symptoms again.

Darter said she decided to cut her trip short and come home. She said Luka was feeling better, but after a few more days, he didn’t seem himself.

Darter said they took him to the Airport Pet Emergency Clinic because it was a Sunday.

“What happened then is they got him in there and he had a fever,” Darter said. “It was about 104 at that time and we were listening to them, did some blood work. When the vet saw him, nothing showed. It was just the fever, fluids and gone and nothing test-wise was there.”

Darter said that a few days later, the vet checked Luka’s lungs.

“When they did the x-ray of his lungs, both lungs were full-fledged pneumonia and not totally the whole lung, but pretty much a good part of it, one more than the other,” Darter said. “And, so they hit him with antibiotics and gave him many different things.”

After taking antibiotics and other medicine, Luka started feeling better, and then symptoms got worse.

X-rays at another vet visit showed the pneumonia multiplied. Darter’s vet recommended taking Luka to the University of Tennessee Veterinary Medical Center in Knoxville.

“The whole purpose of going to U.T. was to do a tracheal wash,” Darter said.

“Since they knew that the antibiotics that they normally treat these illnesses with was not working, they couldn’t identify what was going on in the lungs.”

After the tracheal wash and hospitalization in the ICU at UTCVM, it took a few days for results to show any signs.

Luka was out of the ICU when Darter received news.

“We came up and picked him up and they said that, you know, we think we know what it is by the end of the week and it was mycoplasma that had multiplied into his lung, which could be caused by lots of different things,” Darter said.

Darter said the UT vet center discovered that Doxycycline could kill the mycoplasma bacteria. So, Luka was prescribed four weeks total of Doxycycline.

Darter said Luka started to feel better after those weeks. He was then seven months old.

“The common causes of canine respiratory disease are Bordetella, parainfluenza, adenovirus,” Stephen Strickler, owner and veterinarian at Young’s Animal Hospital said. “There are some bacterial causes and mycoplasma is another bacteria that can cause that and some common antibiotics such as amoxicillin, clavulanic acid. Doxycycline is used to treat these diseases. And what we don’t know is whether it’s a primary viral disease that gets a secondary bacterial infection or whether that causes a bacteria that just hasn’t been identified yet.”

Dr. Strickler said they’ve seen a couple of cases of a respiratory illness in dogs that did not respond well to typical medications at their clinic.

He said dog respiratory illnesses are picked up primarily from other areas dogs frequent.

“Doing things like dog parks, kennels, grooming, boarding, et cetera,” Dr. Strickler said. “And so any time dogs are in those type of environments, you just have to be cautious.”

Paul Boynton, owner of Off Leash Social – Johnson City Dog Park & Bar, said they’re taking extra precautions right now to keep dogs safe.

“We’re spot-checking. Everyone that comes in we’ll just make sure the dog doesn’t have any visible signs,” Boynton said. “We ask the owner if they have shown any signs of respiratory illness. “

Boynton said they’ve also taken away community water bowls at this time.

“We still have water for dogs, but we’ve got a system where we now have paper plates you can give your dog water and then we dispose of it or we put it up so that dogs aren’t sharing it,” Boynton said.

Luka at 11 months old (photo: Lori Darter)

Darter is glad that Luka is back to being healthy. He is now 11 months old.

Darter encourages people to get pet insurance.

Dr. Strickler recommends pet owners not panic, and that respiratory illnesses are common with dogs at this time of year.

“I think with the development of any respiratory signs in your dog, watch closely,” Strickler said. “And if you feel like things are not what they ought to be, consult your veterinarian because quick care and an early visit will help treat a lot of these problems and get a quicker handle on the problem.”

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