Winnipeg veterinarian warns dog owners of canine cough outbreak

Winnipeg Veterinarian Dr. Ron Worb says he's seen an increase in dogs coming into his office with canine cough and has recommendations for pet owners.

What you need to know to protect your fur baby

Some dog owners bring their own water bowls to dog park to try to keep their pets safe from canine cough. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

Winnipeg dog owners should take precautions against an infectious respiratory disease that's showing up in dogs at clinics across the city, according to a local veterinarian.

Dr. Ron Worb, chief of staff at Anderson Animal Hospital and Wellness Centre, said he's seeing one to three new cases of canine cough every day.

"There is an outbreak in the city. We've been seeing increased incidents of canine cough cases [for] at least a solid three weeks and it is not subsiding yet," said Dr. Worb.

The illness, often caused by a Bordetella infection, causes inflammation in a dog's lungs. It may run its course in seven to 10 days but in rare cases can lead to serious pneumonia.

It used to be known as "kennel cough," but with dogs' social lives moving beyond homes and the vet office, Dr. Worb said a more accurate name is canine cough.

"It was historically referred to as kennel cough but it's unfair to saddle kennels with that sort of reference term. So now we call it canine infectious disease respiratory complex or canine cough."

Winnipeg veterinarian Ron Worb recommends pet owners get their dogs vaccinated against canine cough as an outbreak of the dog respiratory disease shows no sign of slowing down. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

Precautions for pet owners

Canine cough can be picked up any place where large groups of dogs gather, such as dog parks or kennels, or from sharing dog toys or water bowls.

Jackie Martin says she often takes her dogs, Daisy and Boomer, to Maple Grove Dog Park and takes precautions whenever there is an outbreak.

"You kind of have to make sure your pets are healthy and hope that other people [do the same] with theirs. I tend to bring my own water out and don't let them drink out of communal bowls when it's happening," said Martin.

Chantal Skinner recently had her dogs vaccinated for canine cough, and said she doesn't take other precautions at dog parks.

"I kind of thought a shot would be enough as far as a precaution," said Skinner.

Veterinarians recommend a Bordatella vaccine, but just like the annual flu vaccine for humans, it may not be a complete match against the disease that's circulating. Dr. Worb said even vaccinated dogs can get symptoms, but the immunization helps.

"What we're finding is that dogs that are appropriately immunized are either not getting the disease or they are getting much milder disease than those dogs that have not been immunized," said Worb.

Dr. Worb also recommends pet owners should check if their kennel or doggy daycare makes vaccines mandatory for all clients. 

Finally, he said people should seek treatment or advice when they first hear a cough in their dog, because it could be something more serious than canine cough.

"There is a whole other number of significant diseases that can mimic canine cough. For example, one could have bacterial or fungal pneumonia, we've seen cancer cases and heart failure, and I really think it's important, if there is a cough, they should see a veterinarian to clarify," Worb said.

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