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How to protect your dogs from respiratory illnesses this holiday season

Two dogs run on a patch of green grass. Indiana animal experts are providing guidance to dog owners on how to keep their pets safe from a mystery respiratory illness that's been affecting dogs across the United States. (Provided Photo/Visit Indiana)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Animal experts are giving dog owners across Indiana guidance on how to best protect their pets from a respiratory illness that has been affecting dogs across the country.

Case reports show that the illness can impact all breeds and sizes of dogs. In a news release from the Indiana State Board of Animal Health, veterinarians from throughout Indiana, including Fort Wayne, Indianapolis, Bloomington, and Evansville, are reporting cases of the mystery illness.

Dr. Melissa Justice, a veterinarian with the Board of Animal Health, suggests travel and boarding may generate a spike in cases in the coming holiday season.

“Dog owners should not be worried—instead, exercise caution and be intentional in protecting the health of their pets,” Justice said.

To keep your beloved pet from getting sick, Justice says to reduce contact with large numbers of unknown dogs when possible and avoid communal water bowls shared by multiple dogs. Dogs that are commingled could be at greater risk for developing illness.

Justice also says dog owners should be vigilant in monitoring dogs for signs of illness.

Keep sick dogs at home whenever possible, and if a dog develops a persistent cough or lethargy, a veterinary visit is recommended.

Most cases start with a dry, hacking cough that resembles “kennel cough.” Within the next one to two weeks, dogs may start to show signs of lethargy, fever, decreased appetite, nasal and/or eye discharge, respiratory distress, or pneumonia.

If the cough persists longer than a week, Justice says dog owners should contact their veterinarian.