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Dog Owners, Take Caution: Deadly "Strep Zoo" Illness Spreading and Major Pet Food Recall

Experts share insight on the new sickness, as the FDA warns about potentially contaminated food.

If you have a dog, you know how quickly they go from pet to best friend. Even if you vowed you'd never let them sleep in your bed or feed them from the table, we almost always end up bending the rules for our loyal companions. But now, experts want dog owners to proceed with extra caution, as a new deadly illness is spreading at the same time as a major pet food recall. Read on to find out about the health issues now putting dogs at risk, and how you can keep yours safe.

RELATED: Veterinarians Issue Urgent Warning to Dog Owners as "Severe, Fast-Moving" Illness Spreads.

A respiratory illness has been reported in several states.

sick dog lying on bed
My July / Shutterstock

Cases of a potentially fatal illness have been reported in dogs in several U.S. states, including Oregon, Colorado, California, Indiana, Illinois, Washington, Idaho, Georgia, Florida, and New Hampshire, and the surrounding Northeast area, Today reported.

Symptoms can include a stubborn cough, sneezing, nasal and/or eye discharge, and lethargy, according to a press release from the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA). However, the illness can suddenly take a serious turn.

"It seems to happen very, very quickly—to go from this cough that's just won't go away … and then all of a sudden they develop this pneumonia," Lindsey Ganzer, DVM and CEO at North Springs Veterinary Referral Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, told Today.

At Ganzer's hospital, veterinarians are seeing two to three cases every day since mid-October, with most requiring hospitalization, and four or five of the total cases leading to death. The fatal cases occurred when dogs came in that were already in respiratory distress with pneumonia.

While experts aren't entirely sure what's causing this mysterious illness, cases of respiratory disease reported at the San Diego Human Society—which include four dog deaths—were connected to the Strep zoo bacteria, per a Nov. 15 press release.

The humane society also cited illness related to another bacterial infection from Mycoplasma. When these two bacteria combine, it leads to "more severe disease than what the shelter might see with just one of these pathogens," the organization said.

RELATED: The Real Reason You Should Never Wake a Sleeping Dog, Vet Warns.

Seek veterinary care if your dog gets sick.

sick dog at the vet
FamVeld / Shutterstock

Kurt Williams, DVM, PhD, DACVP, director of Oregon Veterinary Diagnostics Lab, told Today that dog owners needn't "become paralyzed with fear," but should take steps to reduce their pup's risk of infection.

In addition to ensuring their vaccinations are up to date, the ODA recommends reducing contact with unknown dogs and sick dogs, as well as avoiding communal water bowls. If your dog does get sick, keep them away from other dogs and get to your vet.

In conversation with Today, Ganzer also issued a warning ahead of the holidays, when many travelers are planning to board their dogs.

"I understand that there are circumstances that are unavoidable and that some people have to [board their dogs], but I would not take this lightly," she told the outlet. "If there's somebody that can even just come to your house and let your dog out, that's a better option."

RELATED: 8 Dog Breeds With the Worst Health Problems, Vet Tech Warns.

Dog owners should also be aware of a pet food recall.

pouring pet food / Shutterstock

Unfortunately, strep zoo isn't the only health concern for dog owners right now. According to a Nov. 16 announcement from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), TFP Nutrition is voluntarily recalling all dry dog, dry cat, and catfish formulas that were manufactured at its Nacogdoches, Texas, facility due to potential Salmonella contamination. The latest announcement expands TFP Nutrition's initial recall from Oct. 20.

Pets that contract Salmonella will show symptoms such as lethargy, diarrhea (sometimes bloody), fever, and vomiting, according to the FDA. They may also have decreased appetite and abdominal pain, but appear "otherwise healthy."

In this situation, however, they can still infect other animals and humans, the FDA says. The agency recommends contacting your vet if your dog has eaten recalled food and shows symptoms.

Aside from contracting Salmonella from your pet, humans can also be infected after handling this dry pet food—and children, elderly, and immunocompromised people are at greater risk. The infection can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramping, and fever, the FDA says.

In rare cases, Salmonella can also lead to more serious conditions like arterial infections, endocarditis, arthritis, muscle pain, eye irritation, and urinary tract symptoms. If you display any of these symptoms after handling recalled dog food, call your doctor immediately.

Stop feeding recalled products to your pets.

recalled dog food

According to the FDA release, TFP Nutrition "is working directly with retailers to remove the impacted product from the supply chain." However, the agency also provides a list of formulas and date codes for affected products so you can check the food you have at home. Per pictures provided by the FDA, affected products include some store brands, like Member's Mark (Sam's Club) and H-E-B Texas Pets.

If you're not sure whether your pet's food is included in the recall, double-check it by visiting TFP Nutrition's recall page or calling 1-866-311-1323. If your package is included in the recall, stop feeding it to your pet and throw it away.

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Abby Reinhard
Abby Reinhard is a Senior Editor at Best Life, covering daily news and keeping readers up to date on the latest style advice, travel destinations, and Hollywood happenings. Read more
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