PHOENIX - More states are reporting cases of a mysterious and potentially deadly respiratory illness in dogs.
At least 14 states, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AMVA), are investigating reported cases.
The Oregon Department of Agriculture has documented more than 200 cases of the disease since mid-August. It has encouraged pet owners to contact their vet if their dog is sick and told state veterinarians to report cases as soon as possible. The agency is working with state researchers and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Veterinary Services Laboratory to find out what is causing the illnesses.
Many have just boarded their animals or will be in the coming weeks, so FOX 10 spoke with an expert about what Arizona dog owners need to look out for.
On a beautiful November night, Hance Park Dog Park near downtown Phoenix is a popular spot.
"I have a 3-1/2-year-old Bernese Mountain Dog. Big guy. 120 pounds. Loves to come to the park," Brad Lutz said.
"This is Leo, he’s a Golden Retriever. He’s 7-months-old. Super crazy, playful, but the most loving dog ever," Lauren Armejo said.
"She's a nice animal, and she's learning to be mindful when I give her instructions," Ken Andrews said. "I'll say go to the right, go to the left, and believe it or not, she does."
All the pet parents love their animals and want them to stay healthy. Some know about the mysterious and potentially deadly respiratory illness.
"I've heard about it, just reading online news and certain states that it’s popping up in," Lutz said.
It’s now been reported in 14 states, not Arizona, but our neighboring state of California.
Hundreds of dogs have gotten sick, and some have died.
Dr. Mike Lent, the Medical Director of both Pantano and Encanto Animal Clinics in Tucson said early symptoms can look like kennel cough.
"These milder cases seem like they last 6–8 weeks or longer," Dr. Lent said. "Minimally or not responsive to antibiotics, which kennel cough usually is."
Valley Fever is well-known in Arizona and is easy to test. Dr. Lent says the mysterious dog disease does not appear to be a fungus, like Valley Fever.
"In our neck of the woods, we certainly see a ton of Valley Fever. We also see kennel cough. We see dogs coughing from allergies almost all year round," Dr. Lent said. "It’s trying to separate it out. A, what is this? And then B, what isn't this?"
Until more is known, Dr. Lent says, "Unfortunately, the best prevention right now is avoidance, particularly of those higher concentration encounters of dogs. The boarding, doggy daycare, the dog parks."
But because there are no suspected cases in Arizona yet, Lutz plans to keep bringing his big pup to the dog park.
"Love coming to this dog park, no reservations bringing him here," Lutz said.
Dr. Lent says some of the best veterinarian minds are working on this right now, and soon there will be a treatment.
For now, if your dog starts coughing, and especially if they have boarded recently or were at doggy daycare, get them to their vet right away.
David Needle, senior veterinary pathologist at the University of New Hampshire’s New Hampshire Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, has been investigating the mysterious disease for almost a year.
His lab and colleagues at the university’s Hubbard Center for Genome Research have looked at samples from dogs in Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Massachusetts and more will be coming from Oregon, Colorado and possibly other states.
He said his team has not seen a large increase in dogs dying from the illness but still encouraged pet owners to "decrease contact with other dogs."
‘I thought I was going to lose him’
Some pet owners are afraid it’s already here.
Oso, an Australian sheepdog, was gagging, coughing and wheezing in early October.
Mary Ramsey says it got so bad she thought her beloved dog might die.
"I thought I was going to lose him. And with this stuff going around, I wouldn’t even adopt another one. I wouldn’t trust, because I wouldn’t trust any place," she said.
Oso’s troubles lasted into November and included many trips to the vet. Plus, the $3,500 in vet bills that went with it.
"What gets me is they keep saying it’s not in Arizona. Yes, it is," Ramsey said.
At a place where pets are pampered, called Bark If You Are Dirty, they’re getting a few concerned calls, but no cancellations, yet.
"I mean, I literally just brought my huskies in for a grooming today. Again, I don’t wanna alarm anyone because I don’t think we’re to that point yet," Jay Chant, manager at Bark If You Are Dirty.
Back in Goodyear, Oso is getting better by taking an antibiotic. He's getting back to his old tricks.
"I can’t love him and kiss him enough," Ramsey said.
Again, the best advice from experts is to keep your dog away from other dogs.
That means no dog parks, doggy daycares or dog groomers.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.