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November 29, 2023

Veterinarians nationwide are on alert in response to reports of a serious, atypical infectious respiratory disease in dogs. To date, the causative agent has not yet been identified and diagnostic testing in more suspect cases is required to identify the cause. In response to questions from clinicians, the MSU Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory is sharing these recommendations for how veterinarians can help prepare for seeing dogs with respiratory infections.

Three Key Points:

      1. Collect high-quality samples early in infection.
      2. Provide a complete history on the submittal form.
      3. Order a canine respiratory disease panel. If results are negative, reach out to the MSU Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory for additional testing options for less common or novel pathogens.

    In cases of acute respiratory illness in dogs, diagnostic testing is recommended at initial presentation. While clinicians may not routinely test dogs showing respiratory signs because the disease is most often self-limiting, diagnostic testing early can serve multiple purposes.

    • Dogs are most likely to be shedding during the acute phase of disease, making it the best time to look for viral or bacterial agents.
    • When a common pathogen is identified, it provides clinicians with better information to predict the anticipated course of illness and determine the need for antimicrobial therapy.
    • If routine diagnostics are negative, these samples may be utilized for additional testing for less common or even novel pathogens.

    When collecting samples, two separate deep pharyngeal (or nasal) swabs are recommended. Collect samples prior to initiating any treatment.

    • One sample should be collected using a standard bacterial transport swab. This may be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Do not freeze.
    • The second sample should be collected with a standard sterile synthetic swab and placed in a sterile, leak-proof tube containing 0.5-1.0 ml of saline or PBS. This will be used for virus testing and, if needed, sequencing. If not submitted within 24 hours, it may be stored in the freezer for up to 30 days.

    Providing a complete history is always recommended and is especially important when investigating a potentially novel pathogen. Please collect and provide the following information:

    • description of clinical signs and onset
    • travel history
    • vaccination status/history
    • any current medications or therapies
    • any regular contact with dogs from outside the home (e.g., dog parks, grooming, boarding, training classes, foster or shelter animals)

    When submitting samples to the MSU Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, please order Canine Respiratory Disease Core Panel Plus (80985). In addition to the targets listed in the catalog, we will also test for additional pathogens including canine influenza virus, SARS-CoV-2, and canine respiratory coronavirus at no additional charge. If using another veterinary diagnostic laboratory, look for a comparable canine respiratory panel. In cases where testing for common respiratory pathogens in dogs yields negative results, contact the MSU Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory for assistance in pursuing further diagnostics.

    If testing is not feasible at initial presentation, collect and store samples as described above. If the dog does not improve or develops more serious symptoms, the earlier samples may be submitted.

    Consider implementing infection control protocols in the clinic for any cases of dogs with respiratory signs. Clinics can take steps to help protect other dogs as a precaution to prevent the spread of infectious respiratory diseases.

    Contact your state veterinarian/animal health official when you see an unusual case or unexpected outcome. Reporting unusual cases can help animal health officials as they work with partners on diagnostic investigations.

    Questions about diagnostic testing or nationwide laboratory efforts to respond?

    Contact the MSU Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at 517.353.1683. The MSU Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory is working with diagnostic laboratories and state and federal agencies across the country to identify a cause for the elevated number of dogs with respiratory clinical signs.

    The MSU Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, a service unit in the MSU College of Veterinary Medicine, is a premier, full-service, fully accredited veterinary diagnostic laboratory. On average, the lab performs one million tests per year for more than 300,000 animals. The MSU Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory is a member of key federal networks charged with protecting human and animal health, and their core diagnostics, expert service, and innovative solutions have earned them clients in all 50 states, U.S. territories, and more than 25 countries.

    Page last updated: December 7, 2023