Since the summer an unknown respiratory illness has been affecting dogs across the country. Now one local agency is issuing an official warning to pet owners.

Currently the mysterious infection has reached dogs in 16 states, including Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

While the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is urging people not to panic about the disease, Rhode Island has now issued an official warning about what they're calling “needless risks of exposure.”

Get our free mobile app

According to a press release from the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Protection (RIDEM), the new, mysterious dog flu is a “highly contagious respiratory disease that causes more severe illness and carries higher resistance to antibiotics than typical respiratory infections.”

They add that although hundreds of similar cases have presented throughout the country, veterinarians are still unsure exactly what the disease is or if cases are even related.

RIDEM says most dogs present with a mild upper respiratory infection or kennel cough, but cases have been leading to pneumonia, hospitalizations and in a few rare cases, death.

Even though the Ocean State has had just 35 known cases of mystery dog flu, State Veterinarian Scott Marshall DVM thinks “this disease is being highly underreported.” Along with RIDEM, he is encouraging dog owners to take necessary steps to avoiding catching it altogether.

According to Marshall, “the only common thread is that all cases appear to have an association with dogs recently commingling with other dogs.” He therefore suggests that dog owners stop bringing their pets to dog parks, groomers, trainers, into stores that allow dogs and even daycares and kennels if it can be avoided.

52 Sleepy SouthCoast Dogs That Will Make You Smile

SouthCoast "pet parents" share their slumbering fur babies for all to see.

Gallery Credit: Gazelle

35 SouthCoast Dogs: Can You Guess the Gender Just by Looking at Their Faces?

Scroll through this list and try your best to guess if the dog is a boy or a girl based on just its face. Good luck!

Gallery Credit: Gazelle

More From WFHN-FM/FUN 107