Labor day has come and gone, the Patriots play their season opener tonight, there are (slightly) fewer out of state cars on the road....summer must be over. This summer brought the usual assortment of cuts, quills, compost eating, hot spots and muscle injuries. Along with the usual, we saw some new developments in the world of pet illness. Lyme disease is an ever present danger, becoming even more prevalent each year. Anaplasmosis is showing up more often, although usually it is not symptomatic. There is a new canine influenza strain south of us that has been causing sporadic outbreaks in the mid-Atlantic and south. The past few weeks have seen at least one outbreak of kennel cough, likely due to a carrier dog who was showing no signs of illness when he came into the boarding facility.
Unlike most diseases, "kennel cough" is not really a single disease at all, but a complex of numerous viruses and bacteria that can occur in any combination and cause a deep, honking cough. Then name came about due to the fact that dogs who are housed in close quarters under stressful conditions tend to spread respiratory disease. Despite this, any dog can become infected with any one of these upper respiratory organisms. Some dogs will show signs of illness when infected, some will not. Many will cough but otherwise seem to feel and act fine. While there is a vaccine that is associated with "kennel cough", it is not designed to prevent the complex. Unlike most vaccines, the goal is to decrease the amount of spread from dog and dog and limit the severity and duration of the cough. The vaccine protects against Bordatella, the bacteria most commonly found in dogs with kennel cough. By eliminating this bacteria from the mix, the disease tends to be less severe.
While we do recommend vaccinating dogs who are going to travel, stay in a kennel, go to day care or dog classes, or spend time at a dog park, this is more to prevent the spread of the disease than to guarantee that your pet won't come down with a cough. If your dog does start to cough after being in contact with other dogs, it is most likely an infection of some sort. Much like us, it is often viral and we just need to let it run it's course. If your dog seems to feel ill, we might prescribe antibiotics for the bacterial part of the complex. If you are traveling south for the winter (lucky you), we might also recommend vaccinating against the two strains of influenza that are currently being diagnosed. Even if your dog isn't going any further than the back yard, make sure they are up to date on Rabies, DHPPV and Lyme vaccines to protect them from the always present diseases that we deal with here in the mid coast. Enjoy the fall, it will pass as quickly as the summer did!