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Kennel cough spreading in South Island

29 February 2008

Kennel cough spreading in South Island

Kennel cough, a highly infectious dog illness, is spreading in the South Island, says the New Zealand Veterinary Association. It has caused the cancellation of the Southland Agility and Obedience two-day dog show in Invercargill this weekend.

"Veterinarians in Southland, and other parts of the South Island, are reporting cases of kennel cough. Some of these cases were probably contracted at dog shows or other dog events," says the association's companion animal spokesperson, Pieter Verhoek.

Kennel cough is not usually life threatening. It causes a dry hacking cough and infected dogs may become unwell and go off their food. Some dogs will recover without treatment within a few days, but in others the cough can last for up to eight weeks.

"Owners often take their dog to the veterinary clinic because they think there is something stuck in its throat and that's certainly what it can sound like," says Dr Verhoek.

"In most cases, so long as the dog is still active and eating then it will probably get better within a week without treatment. However, I would advise anyone whose dog is off its food and seems lethargic and unwell, to seek treatment."

Kennel cough is caused by a combination of a bacterium and several different viruses. Dogs can be vaccinated against it, although the standard puppy vaccines do not cover it.

"The kennel cough vaccines do protect dogs, but the immunity may be short-lived and the protection may not be complete," says Dr Verhoek. "While vaccinated dogs can sometimes have a mild infection, we still recommend vaccination, particularly for dogs that are being taken to shows or anywhere they come into contact with other dogs."

Dogs can catch kennel cough from any dog that is infected. Dr Verhoek believes the name kennel cough is misleading.

"Calling it kennel cough suggests that all dogs that go into kennels will catch it and this is not the case at all. However, it is very contagious so it can spread very rapidly when a large number of dogs are brought together in one place," he says. "A better name for the disease would be 'canine cough' or 'dog flu'."

Dr Verhoek says that dogs with kennel cough should be kept away from other dogs until they stop coughing, simply because the disease can spread so easily. Dogs that are incubating it can also be contagious and can be spreading it even before they start coughing.

"Coughing dogs should not be taken to dog shows, obedience classes or to public places where they might come in contact with other dogs. By keeping their dog at home, an owner can reduce the risk of the disease spreading further," he says.

Dog owners who are concerned about kennel cough, or are unsure if their dog has been vaccinated, should contact their veterinarian.


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