The Cumberland County [New Jersey] Health Department is asking for the public's help in collecting data on reports of what it calls "sudden and unusual illness" among dogs in the county. "Our priority at the health department is the health and safety of our residents and that includes our pets. We want to ensure we look further into any unusual illness occurring in our community as early detection is extremely important in stopping potential diseases from spreading," said Megan Sheppard, Health Officer for the Cumberland County Health Department on Friday [26 Aug 2016]. According to the health department, illnesses in pets can occur for a number of reasons and typically a visit to the veterinarian can lead to a diagnosis of the problem and a pet can be treated accordingly. Officials say sometimes these illnesses are chronic and sometimes they can come on suddenly. The county health department, in collaboration with the New Jersey Department of Health Zoonotic Disease Unit, announced on Friday that it is collecting information from those dog owners that feel their pet's recent illness falls into this category. Although most of the concerns have been regarding dogs, the county officials said in a news release, they would not exclude information regarding severe and unusual illnesses in cats. Health officials say they encourage pet owners to consult with their veterinarian if they see signs of their dog or cat falling suddenly ill. Signs of illnesses in dogs can included lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, refusal to eat and muscle weakness. According to a health department spokesman, "a handful of dogs" have been reported ill, mostly in the Millville area. In the past week 3 of those have died. Among them was one dog which was older and displayed signs of pneumonia. The health department is asking for the public's health in gathering information as a proactive measure to determine whether, in fact, there is a widespread problem. While the department is currently focusing on the collection of information regarding recent illnesses in dogs, we encourage residents to always reach out to a veterinarian regarding any unusual and sudden illnesses any type of pet exhibits. If a dog or pet becomes suddenly ill, residents are advised to 1st consult with their veterinarian.