CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A highly contagious respiratory illness in dogs is becoming a concern in Mecklenburg County. 

What You Need To Know

  • Respiratory illness transmitted among dogs is increasing in Mecklenburg County

  • It can cause cough, difficulty breathing and in some cases death

  • An emergency veterinarian recommends keeping dogs home and preventing them from socializing to minimize the risk

It causes dogs to have trouble breathing, and some have even died from the disease. 

Dr. Jill Pascarella at Charlotte Animal Referral & Emergency, or CARE, said the illness is mostly affecting young dogs. 

“We really don’t know what it is. A lot of the common things we have tests for. A lot of coming back negative so we are not even sure what it is right now,” Pascarella said. 

She said it doesn’t seem to be kennel cough and influenza. 

“At times we have anywhere up to three to four dogs hospitalized with [this respiratory illness], which it’s pretty unusual," she said.

Pascarella said this illness started this summer.

“Owners may see a hacking cough, a soft moist cough,” Pascarella said. 

Pascarella said the cough doesn’t last long and if dogs are acting normal, they can likely recover at home. However, if they have trouble breathing, she recommends bringing them to the emergency room.  

“Dogs who have respiratory distress will often point their nose up to the sky, puff their cheeks out with their mouth closed or use their abdominal muscles to breathe. Those are the dogs that need to come to the vet. If they are not eating well, they need to be checked out. If your dog is coughing and it’s been going on longer than you’d like, I would definitely call and touch base with your family vet,” Pascarella said. 

In severe cases, she said dogs have developed pneumonia. 

“We’ve even had some dogs that have gone up to N.C. State for ventilator therapy that have passed away despite, even on a ventilator,” Pascarella said. 

She said they haven’t diagnosed the illness yet, but they know it’s airborne and spreads easily. 

“Dogs who are around other dogs in social situations are more at risk,” Pascarella said. 

On Friday, CARE had at least five dogs with respiratory problems. 

If your dog doesn’t have to socialize with other dogs or has any of the symptoms mentioned, Pascarella recommends keeping them home to prevent the spread.