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As sick as a dog: is kennel cough looming on the horizon?

What is kennel cough?

Dogs can pick up kennel cough by walking in the park or any other place where they interact with other dogs. Even pets that have been vaccinated against kennel cough can still catch the chest infection which leaves them out of breath. As with human cold viruses, there are many different strains and is impossible to vaccinate against all of them.

Symptoms include a dry hacking cough, retching, sneezing, snorting, gagging or vomiting after exercise or when dogs are excited. These symptoms can appear a few days or more than a week after infection.

What’s happening in Nelson?

Is there an outbreak? Sara Meij of the Nelson Mail met with Nelson woman Karen Bowie, who recently had a run in with kennel cough.

When the dog she was caring for coughed up a big piece of bone, Bowie didn't think much of it. The next day, however, Bowie’s own dog, Sasha, started coughing too. But this time it wasn't a bone that was coughed up - it was just clear fluid. Twenty-four hours later both dogs were driven to the vet, Sasha with a very high temperature.

It turns out it wasn't a trapped bone that made the dog dry retch; it was kennel cough.

Based on the symptoms, Victory vet Jacqui Hickman suspected the dogs had the contagious infection and told Bowie the dogs weren't allowed into the surgery area. Instead, she came out to the Bowie's car to check on the dogs.

Hickman has seen about 10 dogs with kennel cough in the last month, but has also heard of other cases in the wider Nelson and Tasman region. She sees these mini outbreaks three to four times a year.

While no vaccination protects 100 percent, Hickman recommends dogs be vaccinated to minimise the risk of the animal catching an infectious disease. A vaccinated dog will endure less severe symptoms if they contract the disease and the duration of the sickness will be shorter.

Bowie said that her West Highland cross Maltese Sasha was vaccinated and unfortunately still got infected.

What are kennel cough symptoms?

Dogs with kennel cough, usually don't lose their appetite. They have a sore throat from coughing and are sometimes lethargic. The most obvious symptom is a productive cough. Once they start coughing they'll cough 10 times in a row or they'll be constantly coughing.

"It sounds like they're trying to clear their throat, it sounds like there's something stuck in their throat.", said Hickman.

As not to potentially spread the cough. Bowie was advised to not let the dogs play with other dogs for a week from the start of the medication.

So while it doesn’t seem to be an epidemic of grand proportions, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Make sure your dog has been vaccinated for kennel cough this winter. It doesn’t matter where you are in the country.

Is your dog exhibiting any kennel cough symptoms? Not sure? If you are, we suggest getting your pup to a veterinarian as soon as possible. Need help finding a vet near your area? Give us a bell in store on 09 448 2227 and we can help you find one.