Kennel Cough Outbreak

So, kennel cough. Yes, it is a thing again, and its not pretty. For many normally healthy dogs, it can be barely as bad as a cold. But for puppy or weakened dog, it can be serious enough to require veterinary intervention and medications. This is not meant to be veterinary advice, but to raise awareness, always seek out a veterinarian for diagnostic and treatment advice.

Winnipeg is experiencing an epidemic of kennel cough at the moment, with warnings being issued through most of the media. In case any of you, our readers, haven’t heard, please be cautious and follow these tips.

Kennel cough is an upper respiratory infection that can be viral or bacterial in nature, and in many cases, is both. Many dogs are vaccinated for Bordetella, the bacteria associated with kennel cough, but this does not mean you should be lax in your prevention measures.

We are pretty inundated with information about how to stop the spread of respiratory viruses today. Preventing the spread of kennel cough is very similar to what we are living in the age of COVID. It can be spread by contact, aerosol droplets, or by sharing toys or water bowls with infected animals.

Symptoms include a strong cough (almost like a honking goose), runny nose, sneezing, low fever, lethargy and loss of appetite. Your dog does not need to have all the symptoms to be sick, any of these should give you concern enough to seek out veterinary advice.

In visiting dog parks, try to limit the exposure of your dog to others, especially if the other dog is symptomatic. The best prevention is to eliminate interaction with other dogs altogether, try finding alternate places to exercise. These places will require, in most cases, that you keep your dog on leash, which is a good precaution anyway. It allows you to control the interactions your dog has with others.

If you choose to utilize the leash-less park system, please do not bring your dog if it is symptomatic, and please do not use or leave out communal water dishes. Many dog parks have banned their use, and have taken up the bowls, only to have well intentioned people replace them. Yes, hydration is very, very key right now, in the midst of a heat dome, but please be a responsible pet parent and bring water and a drinking vessel for your pet so they do not share bowls, and potentially, disease.

We are dealing with it at home right now, our Lab puppy Rey was not vaccinated for kennel cough because she was given other vaccines each of our puppy visits. Our older Frenchie, Leia, was. We use Maplegrove Park (wonderful place, wonderful people) as a daily exercise that Rey needs and Leia tolerates. Recently, the park announced the outbreak, and that communal water bowls would be removed, and requested they not be replaced. Unfortunately, someone had replaced them and before we noticed, our dogs were using them. We don’t know 100% that is where they were infected, but it seems the most likely vector, considering the timing.

Rey is still acting like a puppy, but has coughing fits (like a goose) and is presenting us with large nasal discharge events. Gross. Leia, who has respiratory issues to begin with, got it even though she got the vaccine. So, now both are on antibiotics and restricted to the yard.

If your dog does become symptomatic, please call your vet. They have inexpensive antibiotics that are very effective. On top of those, at your vet’s instructions, you can use immune supporting products, and some honey to soothe the throat and to take advantage of honey’s antibacterial benefits. Failing to address the issue can lead to it worsening into pneumonia, and end up costing thousands of dollars to treat, and potentially losing the pet.

For young, healthy dogs, kennel cough can run its course in about a week or two, and it is wise to isolate your dog from others for about 2 weeks. Whether your dog is young and healthy or older and more susceptible, keep close watch on progression of the cough, and be ready to seek veterinary help should your pet need it. Preferably, get your vet involved from the first symptoms, so they can advise you what to watch for in your specific animal, especially if your animal has any special veterinary considerations.

We won’t be seeing our dogs wearing non-medical masks anytime soon, but if we can use the tools we’ve learned on social distancing and sanitation, hopefully we won’t lose any of our treasured pets to this epidemic.

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