Mysterious dog illness is spreading

By Jennifer Stoeckl, MAT - Dire Wolf Project CEO, Nov. 22, 2023

A baffling new mystery dog illness, marked by an initial cough that escalates into severe pneumonia, has recently emerged, stirring concerns among veterinarians across multiple states.

This potentially fatal respiratory illness has claimed the lives of several dogs while perplexing experts in their search for its root cause.

Reports of this enigmatic illness have surfaced in various regions including Oregon, Colorado, Indiana, Illinois, Washington, Idaho, California, and the Northeast, triggering alarm within the veterinary community.

Described as a lingering cough persisting for weeks, this condition does not yield to standard treatments like antibiotics, leaving afflicted dogs grappling with breathing difficulties and severe pneumonia, according to Dr. Lindsey Ganzer, CEO at North Springs Veterinary Referral Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Dr. Ganzer's hospital alone has attended to nearly 30 cases since mid-October, with no sign of a decline in new cases.

Most of these cases necessitate immediate hospitalization, with a distressing four to five dogs succumbing to the illness upon arrival, already in a state of respiratory distress.

Symptoms include:

  1. coughing,
  2. sneezing,
  3. nasal or ocular discharge,
  4. fatigue,
  5. trouble breathing,
  6. blue or purple gums (due to lack of oxygen intake).

yet none of the usual respiratory illness tests show positive in affected dogs, as highlighted in a statement by the Oregon Department of Agriculture released on November 9.

The mysterious respiratory infection appears to spread among dogs in close proximity, notably in locations such as:

  • dog daycares
  • parks
  • grooming centers
  • boarding kennels

The Oregon Department of Agriculture has received over 200 cases reported by veterinarians since mid-August, although the exact fatality count remains unknown.

Typically, instances of contagious coughs among canines dwindle in the fall as outdoor activities decrease. However, this year has seen an unusual sustained spike in reported cases, as observed by veterinary experts.

One of the major hurdles faced in addressing this mystery illness lies in categorizing cases that fit the specific parameters of this condition, as numerous other factors can lead to coughing in dogs.

This meticulous process of elimination to identify known causes consumes time, complicating the investigative process.

"We're still attempting to ascertain potential causes for this ailment. In Oregon, this has presented considerable challenges," remarked a spokesperson from the Oregon Department of Agriculture in a press release.

The illness can manifest in three distinct progressions:

  1. a lingering moderate cough for six to eight weeks or longer unresponsive to antibiotics;
  2. persistent pneumonia resistant to antibiotics; or
  3. a swift onset of severe pneumonia leading to dire outcomes within 24 to 36 hours, as stated by the Oregon Department of Agriculture.

I am not a veterinarian, as you know, so I cannot diagnose or give you any specific medical advise.

But… I can tell you what I would do.

First of all, I wouldn’t board my dog, and I would refrain from dog parks or grooming shops until the veterinary community finds out what is going on.

If I simply had to leave my dog behind for the holidays, I would have someone come over to pet sit for now.

If my dog did acquire a lingering cough that developed into the lungs, I would not delay in getting them some relief.

I believe in using nature’s pharmacy first.

I don’t like synthetic drugs unless necessary.

So, I would make sure I had Quercetin on hand.

Quercetin is a plant-based compound with strong antioxidant properties. Quercetin is so effective in helping with allergy symptoms that it’s known as “Nature’s Benadryl.” 

It can be found in:

  1. dark berries
  2. apples (especially the skin)
  3. citrus fruits
  4. dark cherries
  5. parsley

A person could add these foods to a dog’s regular meals up to about 10% of his diet.

There are also many Quercetin supplements on the market, as well.

(NOTE: Quercetin is also being studied for COVID 19 treatment.)

Here is a list of natural remedies that I might also try:

  1. Honey and Green Tea.
  • 1 cup of green tea with 1 tablespoon of dark, unpasteurized 100% honey.
  • 1/4 cup/25lbs twice day.
  • Honey is anti-cough, antibacterial and antiviral.
  • You can also add in 1 tablespoon of lemon to increase antioxidant amounts.

  1. Licorice Root Extract.
  • Documented antiviral activity, and
  • very helpful for cough and pneumonia.
  • Dosage would be of 1/2ml per 20lbs, twice daily.
  1. Elderberry Extract.
  • This is one of the few studied natural products that has been shown to decrease the length and severity of the cold and flu virus.
  • Doses of 100mg/10lbs twice daily.
  1. Slippery Elm.
  • This is great for symptomatic cough relief, as an anti-inflammatory, and may also speed healing.
  • One could use this herb often.
  • Doses of 100mg/10lbs twice daily.
  • If a dog is coughing, mix slippery elm into the honey/green tea mixture above.
  1. Ivermectin.
  • The National Institutes of Health states, “it is hypothesised that ivermectin may have an additional anti-inflammatory role in the setting of COVID pneumonia.
  • Dogs regularly take ivermectin if they are on heart worm prevention medication, such as Heartgard.
  • American Dirus dogs do NOT carry the MDR1 Drug Sensitivity gene that would cause allergic reactions to this medication.


  • Boost your dog’s immunity by giving them all-natural vitamins/minerals… do not rely on the sprayed on synthetic stuff dog kibbles use after all the nutrients have been completely cooked out.
  • We use NuVet Labs all-natural vitamins/minerals supplements. Because of their commitment to using ONLY all-natural, no grain, no preservatives or food coloring ingredients, we are proud to be affiliated with and support their company.
  • At checkout, use our access code: 114525

Of course, if you find your dog in breathing distress… do not delay. Contact your veterinarian right away.

May your Thanksgiving be as serene and heartwarming as a beautiful American Dirus dog nestled by the fireplace, enjoying cozy moments of gratitude and peace.

Jennifer Stoeckl is the co-founder of the Dire Wolf Project, founder of the DireWolf Guardians American Dirus Dog Training Program, and owner/operator of DireWolf Dogs of Vallecito. She lives in the beautiful inland northwest among the Ponderosa pine forests with her pack of American Dirus dogs.