Vets say pandemic pups could be behind rise in kennel cough cases

·3 min read
Kennel cough is much like a common cold for dogs, causing pups to cough, especially at night or after exercise. (Natalia Goodwin/CBC  - image credit)
Kennel cough is much like a common cold for dogs, causing pups to cough, especially at night or after exercise. (Natalia Goodwin/CBC - image credit)

Veterinarians are encouraging dog owners to be on the lookout for kennel cough, and to have pups follow the same rules as their human owners during the pandemic: get the jab and social distance.

Kennel cough is an all-encompassing term used to describe several highly contagious respiratory illnesses in dogs, much like the common cold in people.

The major symptom is a persistent cough, but similar to the viruses that cause the common cold in humans, in rare cases, the viruses that cause kennel cough can develop into more serious diseases such as pneumonia.

This year, kennel cough appears to be on the rise, according to some veterinarians, but tracking the actual number of cases is difficult because reporting the disease in Ontario purely voluntary.

"There seems to be a lot more buzz about it in the last six months to a year or so," said Dr. Scott Weese, an associate professor at the Ontario Veterinary College, who said he heard of an outbreak in Ottawa in the past year.

One of the reasons he said there could be more cases of the disease? Pandemic puppies.

"We just have a lot more dogs around, a lot more people [have been] adopting dogs during the pandemic."

Weese said people have also had a hard time getting veterinary care because vets have been swamped with the new pets, so may have missed getting the vaccine. This is also the time of year, he said, where the virus spikes, because dogs are out of the house and interacting with other dogs during the summer months.

Vaccine can help

There is a vaccine available for Kennel Cough. Known as the Bordetella vaccine, it only protects against some of the causes of the condition, but it can help lessen the severity of the disease. Weese recommends the shot if your dog is often in contact with other canines, such as at doggie daycare or dog parks.

Dr. Marie Ramoutar encourages owners to get the shot. She has been seeing a slight uptick in cases of the illness, along with requests for the vaccine at her clinic, the St. Laurent Animal Hospital.

Dave MacIntosh/CBC
Dave MacIntosh/CBC

"Typically in the fall, we would see maybe one or two cases a day. And I think [now] that's pretty similar, although we might be seeing like three or four cases a day," she said.

She is also hearing about more cases from her neighbours and agrees it could be because there are more dogs this year, along with a lack of access to care.

Ramoutar said there aren't a lot of early signs to the disease, so she encourages pet owners to watch out for that consistent cough, and if you hear it, physically distance your dog from other pups, even when walking.

"I wouldn't take them to the dog park. I wouldn't take them into the pet store with you," she said.

"When you're out walking, I would definitely try and avoid contact with other dogs because [the disease] is spread as aerosolized droplets. So if they are sniffing one another, then they can transmit it to one another."

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