NORFOLK, Neb. -- Scientists are left asking questions as a strange illness affecting dogs spreads across the country. 

Starting at the beginning of the year our four-legged companions have been catching an illness that has left scientists with more questions than answers. While Nebraska pups have so far been spared, cases have been reported in multiple states including Nebraska's neighbors Iowa and Colorado. Experts say the symptoms are close to kennel cough.

The AP News reports the illness causes coughing, sneezing, nasal or eye discharge, and lethargy. Within 24-36 hours dogs can become very sick, and in some cases, dogs have died. Due to the unknown nature of the illness, scientists currently have no way to test for it. However, veterinarians say they aren't worried and owners shouldn't panic.

"I don't think it's time to raise the alarms or anything like that" Norfolk Vet Clinic Associate Veterinarian Devon Lockman said. "There have been respiratory diseases that have been endemic in the United States for a long time for dogs. Some years we see increases in the reported incidents of those cases. I don't know if we're just seeing an increase in circulating disease and bacteria that we have presently, or if it's a novel bacteria or virus that we're seeing. It's hard to tell at this point." 

While Lockman said there's no need to panic, owners should still be vigilant, until they have more answers. 

"The big thing is just being proactive," Lockman said. "Any sort of respiratory kind of illness or cough anything like that, it prompts a visit to the vet. Don't wait until it's too late and your dog is showing other clinical signs."

Scientists say the disease is more likely to spread in large gatherings and recommend keeping dogs away from large groups. However, for many individuals that's not possible, and must rely on boarding. One such place, Happy Tails Boarding in Norfolk, says owners shouldn't panic if they need to drop off their dog. Owner Mark Mazuch said he and others are taking the situation seriously. 

"Just know that we're on top of it," Mazuch said. "Sanitation here is my top priority, especially with this new disease."

Happy Tails already has health requirements for dogs including up-to-date vaccines. Mazuch said he's staying up to date on the situation, something he recommends owners also do.

"Depending on where you get your information from the headlines can be alarming," Mazuch said. "There's a lot of fear, a lot of panic out there, but it's important to just dig in deep and pay attention to what the sources are saying." 

If you do think your dog has come down with an illness, Lockman recommends taking your pet in for a check-up right away. He also recommends keeping your pet up to date on all vaccines if it will be going to an area with many dogs such as boarding or the groomers.