Dogs at risk of catching infectious kennel cough, Winnipeg vet says

An infectious respiratory virus affecting dogs called kennel cough is quickly spreading across Manitoba, a Winnipeg vet says.

Dogs are more at risk of catching infectious diseases today because of dog parks, says Jonas Watson

Canines at dog parks at higher risk of catching kennel cough, Winnipeg vet Jonas Watson says. (Stephanie vanKampen/CBC)

An infectious respiratory virus affecting dogs called kennel cough is quickly spreading across Manitoba, a Winnipeg vet says.

"The symptoms are usually a classic kind of goose honk, dry-sound cough that dogs will do multiple times a day," said Dr. Jonas Watson, a vet with the Tuxedo Animal Hospital in Winnipeg.

Infected dogs cough up a phlegm-like white foam, he said.

"It's serious to the extent that it troubles the dogs quite a bit," he said. "Many dogs are not able to sleep and as a consequence of that many owners are not able to sleep because the dogs are coughing through the night."

In rare cases the virus can progress to more serious illness, such as pneumonia, he said.

Kennel cough does not affect humans. 

Social dogs at risk

Dogs are more at risk of catching infectious diseases today than in the past because they're more social than they used to be, Watson said.

"Gone are the days of dogs hanging out in their house all day, waiting for their owners to come home," he said. "There's a lot of opportunity for dogs to be around other dogs, including the dog park, and as a consequence of that, infectious disease among dogs is spreading in a way now that it hasn't in the past."

Kennel cough is spread in the mouth through saliva, coughing, panting and sharing anything that goes in dogs' mouths, such as bones, he said. 

"Any dogs that are visiting Winnipeg then going out into rural parts of Manitoba, it will spread that way and that's how it's moving across the country," he said. 

Watson and his colleagues have been diagnosing a handful of dogs with kennel cough daily for the past few weeks and he calls it an "epidemic."

What to do 

Watson advises dog owners temporarily keep their pets away from areas that dogs frequent. If people do visit dog facilities, he suggests asking businesses whether or not they've recently had any dogs that showed signs of kennel cough. 

If a dog starts coughing out of nowhere, Watson said it's best to take it to the vet for cough suppressants or antibiotics. 

"There's always a chance that your dog doesn't have kennel cough —  your dog may have the onset of heart disease, they may have a collapsing trachea. They may have something stuck in their throat," he said.