So, What About this New Dog Cough?
Contagious coughing and upper respiratory viruses are not “new” to dogs. We have seen many, over the years and some even caused “outbreaks”, even here in Tallahassee and throughout Florida. They happen so frequently, that they are referred to in Veterinary Medicine as Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease Complex. Some people want to refer to them as “kennel cough”, which is a simplistic name for a complex issue. No, dogs don’t only get it from “boarding”, or dog parks or day care centers. The disease most often associated with CIRDC is Bordetella bronchiseptica, thus “boarding = Bordetella = kennel cough”. It is actually a group of viruses of several categories like Canine Influenza, Canine Parainfluenza, Canine Adenovirus II, and Bordetella bronchiseptica as well as many, many other strains with similar “symptoms”.
Is it “dangerous???” Well, it can be but generally the vast majority of dogs who are otherwise healthy and have some immunity from appropriate vaccination, get an annoying hacky cough for a few days, and then it goes away. Cough medicine, anti-inflammatories, antihistamines etc. help with sore throats and body aches normally associated with viruses, which often “look like” decreased appetite or a bit less active and engaged than normal to their pet parents. Rarely, a secondary bacterial infection will take hold after days to weeks, that will require antibiotics, but only with appropriate diagnostic testing, i.e. bloodwork, x-rays, and sometimes transtracheal washes.
So, what do we do?? Make sure your dog is vaccinated yearly. At At Home Veterinary Care, we have chosen “polyvalent vaccines”, which provide the broadest of immunity to the largest range of CIRDC viruses. We administer the vaccine into the nose. It starts working as soon as it hits the tonsils. We back that up with an annual parainfluenza, adenovirus, and canine flu injectable vaccine as needed. We make sure your furry friend is free of heartworm, tick diseases, intestinal and external parasites, and address dental and skin disease, all of which challenge the immune system and make them more “susceptible” to other “bugs” flying by. We check that your friend is receiving good quality nutrition in the correct amounts, and that they are as healthy as we can get them.
At our facility, we have a specialized cleaning “system” that sprays out the most effective disinfecting solution in the industry, on all indoor surfaces multiple times daily. This is rinsed and “vacuumed up”, enclosed in tubes and pipes that run throughout the entire facility that empty directly into the sewer, so organisms are completely contained until they leave the building. The air is also “disinfected” throughout the building every three minutes by special UV lights within our air handlers. We clean and disinfect all dog bowls, toys, bedding, housing and play areas multiple times, every day, seven days/week.
Bottom line. We don’t yet know what this “mystery disease” is, and even with the best veterinary epidemiologists, virologists and microbiologists in the country working on it, we may not know for several weeks yet. The number of “confirmed cases” is incredibly small, less than a handful. There is no evidence that the “contagious cough” people are seeing in Tallahassee is even related to it, and it is far, far more likely, that one of the other more “seasonal outbreaks” that we have seen over the years is occurring again. Cats are not affected, at all. Nor does it appear to pass to humans.
The best thing you can do to keep your dog safe is get them vaccinated regularly, give them their preventatives, and avoid contact with unvaccinated dogs such as “public” dog parks, walking trails, and community events that lots of dogs attend. Not everyone in our community is as concerned with your dogs’ health as you and we are.
Dr. Elizabeth Blount, Dr. Cathy Gaber, and the “At Home” Team