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Montana dogs being sickened by unidentified disease; vet urges limiting contact | Local

A severe canine respiratory disease that hasn’t yet been identified is sickening dogs around Montana and the state is encouraging dog owners to take precautions to protect their pets.

Dr. Tahnee Szymanski, with the Department of Livestock, said the first reported case was in early July, though some veterinarians around the state saw ill dogs earlier. She estimates about 250 dogs have been sickened, with one clinic in Bozeman having seen more than 100 cases. 

Bozeman veterinarian Dr. Loni Odenbeck said she knows of three dog deaths speculated to be related to the upper respiratory outbreak, though without knowing exactly what the disease is, it’s hard to confirm.

Dogs who fell sick around the state appeared initially to have symptoms similar to a severe case of kennel cough, even though they were vaccinated against that disease. Sick dogs had severe coughs, difficulty breathing and fever, and more critical infections turned into pneumonia, which was fatal in a small number of animals.

Dogs with symptoms have been reported in Billings, Bozeman, Butte, Livingston, Red Lodge and Roundup, with some clinics seeing multiple sick dogs a day. Some clinics in Helena have told owners with sick dogs to not bring their pets into the office because of fear of spreading the disease. So far, no cases have shown up in Missoula, vets there said.

Several veterinarians in the Bozeman area, including Odenbeck, are collecting samples from dogs in an attempt to identify the illness and are working with a couple out-of-state university diagnostic labs. Some dogs have had postmortem exams at a Department of Livestock lab in Bozeman.

Early lab tests indicated the disease could be canine influenza, but a later sample collected from a sick dog brought that into question. The U.S. has seen three past outbreaks of canine influenza, according to the…

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