Categories: Small Dog Preventative Care-Published On: November 18, 2023-

467 Words, 3 Minute Read. Quickly learn about the perplexing mystery illness killing dogs across states, with symptoms, preventive measures, and the importance of early veterinary intervention highlighted in our latest blog post

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Karen Lena Izzo, The Small Dog Rules
Pekinese laying on floor with head down and looking a little sad

The Mystery Illness Killing Dogs

Update as of December 17, 2023


While people still do web searches for “mystery illness in dogs,” the condition finally has a name: Atypical Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease Complex, or “aCIRDC.” The disease, which morphs quickly from a garden-variety kennel-type cough to full-blown pneumonia requiring hospitalization, is sometimes resulting in death. Veterinarians and state governments are increasing their warnings to pup parents to keep their dogs away from other dogs, now that the disease has spread to sixteen states.

While some experts argue the condition isn’t anything new, other researchers fear it’s being underreported and may be caused by a bacteria that’s evolved into a stealth attacker we can’t yet clearly identify or treat. Until those working on the issue all agree, we’re keeping our pups away from other dogs, period.


First reported in August, a baffling and highly-contagious respiratory illness is endangering dogs across the United States. This new strain of illness, which has been fatal in some cases, begins innocuously enough with a cough but can rapidly morph into an antibiotic-resistant pneumonia, leaving veterinarians and dog owners equally bewildered and concerned.

The Unresolved Puzzle

What’s particularly jarring about this mystery illness killing dogs is the unknown nature of its cause. Is it viral? Bacterial? We simply don’t have the answers yet, and that’s what makes it all the more disconcerting. The disease seems to escalate quickly, transforming from a persistent cough into something much more severe. Notably, even younger dogs, who are typically not susceptible to pneumonia, aren’t spared from this sickness.

Small terrier and Havanese or Shih Tzu pictured from rear and about to greet each other on grassy lawn

Symptoms to Watch For

  • Persistent coughing that lingers beyond a week
  • Sneezing
  • Discharge from the nose or eyes
  • A general sense of fatigue or lethargy
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Gums turning blue or purple, a sign of oxygen deprivation

Prompt attention and early veterinary intervention are crucial if your pup shows any of these symptoms.

Precautions for Avoiding Mystery Illness Killing Dogs

Given the severity and still-mysterious nature of this illness, it’s prudent to adopt preventive measures. While I hate to dredge up pandemic-era memories of lockdown, it might be wise to keep our pups away from situations that could amplify the spread of this sickness. This includes avoiding:

  • Busy dog parks
  • Pet care facilities
  • Shopping at pet stores
  • Grooming facilities
  • Crowded public trails
  • Canine events

It’s also advisable to limit other direct contact with other dogs, such as those friendly fur-to-fur greetings during walks.

In Conclusion: Staying Alert and Informed

The very essence of this mystery illness killing dogs lies in its unknown origin and unpredictable progression. The transformation into a form of pneumonia that resists antibiotics adds another layer of complexity to the issue. As dog guardians, our best course of action is to stay vigilant, monitor our pets for any unusual signs, and engage with our vets promptly if symptoms arise. The situation is evolving, and keeping abreast of the latest information is key to safeguarding the health of our beloved canine companions.

And To Keep Your Pup from Being Bored at Home

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