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Montana veterinarian says contagious dog respiratory virus hard to pinpoint

Dr Edie Best says her Billings clinic has seen an influx in worried dog owners with concerned questions about the mystery virus
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Posted at 7:24 PM, Jan 02, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-02 21:24:59-05

BILLINGS - A Billings veterinarian says a deadly dog respiratory illness circulating the Northwest, even possibly popping up in parts of Montana, may be hard to diagnose, making it hard to treat.

The illness has already been found in dogs in 16 states and cases coming as close to Billings as Bozeman.

Dr. Edie Best, with Billings Animal Family Hospital, says the fear of the virus is even preventing dog owners from traveling and making other arrangements for boarding.

“People are on such high alert,” said Best.

She says in recent weeks, dog owners have called into the animal clinic with a lot of questions.

“They are thinking oh my god, is it here, is my dog sick?” she said.

Still, she along with other veterinarians find the respiratory illness found in dogs, both hard to diagnose and difficult to treat.

“Because we don’t know the pathogen that causes it, it’s so obscure right now, and there have been people doing cultures and trying to identify the organism and no one has identified anything specific. So, we just don’t know,” said Best.

“It’s scary, it’s scary,” said pet owner Andrea Jeno.

While the virus has made Jeno think twice about taking out her 8-year-old French bulldog Lisette, she’s not stopping activities entirely.

“She’s a grand champion,” said Jeno.

Lisette is a retired show dog, and Jeno says news of the respiratory virus came about on the dog show circuit.

“Because I take my dogs out to confirmation practice, and I thought do I want to take them?” she said. “It’s pretty concerning because they can get pretty sick, pretty fast and can’t breathe.”

After more than 200 cases reported in just one Pacific Northwest state, Dr. Best has not seen it in the clinic yet. But fears it will emerge soon.

“Everything gets to Montana eventually; it just takes a little bit longer.”

Meanwhile, Jeno and Lisette are moving forward and staying cautious.

“It’s probably not going to hold me at home,” she said.