The dog days aren't over: This summer was huge for kennel cough, a canine sickness
Kennel cough is a contagious canine respiratory infection, and this summer saw more instances than last year
This summer has seen more reported instances of kennel cough — an airborne, contagious dog sickness that lasts for about a week.
The virus is just like the common cold, but for dogs.
"Some owners will describe it as like they're worried their dog is choking on something. And they can cough so violently that it looks like they're vomiting when they finally get that phlegm up," says Dr. Maggie Brown-Bury, head of the Newfoundland and Labrador Veterinary Medical Association.
As frightening as it may be to watch, kennel cough isn't much worse for a dog than a cold is for humans. However, there has been an increase in the number of reported cases in the province this summer, Brown-Bury said.
"It's definitely increased this year. I work 24-hour emergency clinics and last summer we saw very few people coming in with kennel cough on an emergency basis," she said.
"And this summer we're getting on average about one a day at least. I know some of the general practices — they've already seen 50 or more cases this summer," she says.
Dr. Brown-Bury has some advice on preventing your furry friend from contracting the sickness, and information about why it's become so widespread.
A bad kennel cough season
The potential cause of this year's increase is similar to the reason that some human cold-and-flu seasons are worse than others.
As the strain of the cold evolves, it becomes harder for vaccines to keep up with the virus. That's why some years seem to have more kennel cough reports than others.
"We have vaccines that will cover some of the viruses, some of the bacteria that cause kennel cough, just like the flu vaccine," Brown-Bury said.
"Some years, the strain that's going around isn't covered by that vaccine."
And that strain certainly travels fast — kennel cough is contagious, and shows up in places where groups of dogs congregate.
"Dog parks, doggie daycare or boarding facilities," she said.
"They like to get cozy with each other."
Quarantining your pup may be a good idea
That's why keeping your dog away from others if he's exhibiting symptoms is the way to go, Brown-Bury said — though you don't have to keep Rover quarantined all the time.
"Socializing with dogs you know and people you trust is always helpful. You know, if you have a group of people that you regularly meet at the dog park and you trust each other to say, 'You know what, my dog's not feeling so great. I'm going to sit out these playdates for a couple of weeks,'" she said.
"So having that relationship with other dog owners can make it a bit safer to have that socialization."
Be aware that if you're dropping your little buddy off at a kennel, he may come back with a bit of a cold.
That's a problem that Travis Reid, manager of Topsail Star Pet Centre, has been wrestling with this summer.
"Yeah, we've definitely seen a few few cases here," Reid says. "This year, I don't know if we've had a half a dozen or a dozen dogs probably, over the past month."
If a dog at the facility shows symptoms of kennel cough, the animal will be quarantined as best possible, for as long as necessary, and the owner will be contacted, he said.
"This year it seems to be lingering around a little bit longer," Reid said.
"Sometimes a few days and they're back to their normal selves. Other times it could be a week or so."
The virus is airborne, however, which makes it difficult to contain.
"At a doggie daycare or kennel you're going to have more dogs in one area," he said.
"It's the same thing as in school or whatnot, kids in an area together."
Getting your shots always helps
Like Brown-Bury, Reid recommends vaccinations as a solution, if not a fail-safe method of preventing kennel cough.
He compares the situation to having a child.
"I think a lot of people, they care just as much over their pets as their kids. Same thing in daycares with, you know, head colds, fevers, pinkeye, or any of that," he said.
"You deal with it, you know. Same thing with dogs."