A flare-up of kennel cough, or canine cough, is going around the Comox Valley.
“I would say it’s significant,” says Comox Valley Animal Hospital co-owner Dr. David MacDonald, who has seen a spike of cases lately. A couple of Saturdays ago, “I think I had five appointments that were kennel cough so there’s definitely something going on.
“It’ll last for a few weeks and then it will peter away — that’s what happens.”
Kennel cough is not a deadly disease, according to MacDonald, though he notes puppies are more susceptible to becoming quite sick.
“Puppies might get secondary pneumonia and get really ill, and possibly die but I wouldn’t call it a ‘deadly disease’.”
Kennel cough is contagious and airborne, so even dogs that don’t see other dogs but are taken out for walks in public areas can contract it.
“In effect, a dog coughs out thousands of bacteria when it coughs and they can land on the grass or they’re in the air,” he says. “That dog may move on and another dog comes along and breathes in that air or sniffs the grass in that area, and then they get infected.”
The most common symptom is a persistent, forceful cough, sometimes to the point of vomiting. MacDonald notes most dogs with kennel cough do not lose their appetites or experience decreased energy levels, but some can. Sneezing, a runny nose, or eye discharge are other possible symptoms.
Kennel cough will usually go away on its own, but MacDonald recommends dogs be kept home and away from other dogs for two weeks from the resolution of coughing, due to its contagious nature.
MacDonald warns coughing can be a sign of other illness in dogs, such as bronchitis or heart failure, so owners should not assume their dog has kennel cough if their dog is coughing.
The best measure to protect your dog against kennel cough, says MacDonald, is a yearly vaccine, which he notes is not 100 per cent effective, but works quite well to protect the animal from contracting the bacteria.
As well, he wouldn’t necessarily avoid kennels due to a flare-up of kennel cough, pointing out many kennels require dogs be vaccinated against kennel cough before boarding.
Kennel cough cases show up sporadically around the year, usually with more around the summer holidays and Christmas, as people travel and visit more around these times of year, including their canine family members.
“Whenever you start to get lots of dogs mixing, you know people are moving around and travelling, dogs are coming and visiting with people, or going into kennels because people are going on vacation, then you get little outbreaks,” he says.