Juneau Dogs Suffer From Kennel Cough

(Photo by Martin Cathrae/Flickr Creative Commons)
(Photo by Martin Cathrae/Flickr Creative Commons)

Suspected cases of kennel cough in dogs have recently spiked in Juneau. An animal shelter has cancelled its daily dog daycare and is quarantining its kennel.

“Just like the flu is going around Juneau now or colds go around Juneau, in this case, it’s kennel cough. It’s definitely disconcerting for veterinary clinics, for kennels, for the humane society. It can be upsetting,” says Chava Lee, Executive Director of Gastineau Humane Society.

Lee says cases of kennel cough started showing up at the animal shelter within the past two weeks. She says the staff immediately took precautions:

“Our whole kennel is in quarantine, so that means that we’ve shut down all those programs where dogs come in and every dog kennel, regardless of whether there’s a dog in it, is cleaned every single day. And when I mean cleaned, I mean they are bleached down, bleach is left to stand, so that we kill any germs that have gotten into our system.”

Lee says the quarantine will last three weeks. Meanwhile, the humane society has cancelled doggy daycare and informs people wanting to board dogs about the recent cases of kennel cough. Lee says it’s been at least two years since kennel cough has been at the shelter.

State veterinarian Bob Gerlach says kennel cough is very contagious:

“Kennel cough is very, very similar to the human flu in the fact that kennel cough can be caused by both a virus or a bacteria – the parainfluenza virus or the Bordetella bacteria – and it’s spread by the aerosol from the dog, so when the dog sneezes or coughs, the virus could be spread that way.”

Gerlach says kennel cough is passed between dogs through direct contact, as well as licking or playing with the same toys, or using the same water or food bowl. Dogs with kennel cough should stay away from other dogs.

Gerlach says dogs that are very old, very young, or going through other stressful situations, like traveling, are susceptible to picking up the infection, even if they’ve been vaccinated, “No vaccine is going to give you a hundred percent protection,” he explains. “Oftentimes they protect on a mass basis so that a large percentage of dogs that receive the vaccines will be protected but there’s always going to be some that may not be of the greatest health or maybe that they are under some other stresses that they may not get full protection, and so they still could come down with the disease, but generally they are not going to get it as severely as if they didn’t get vaccinated.”

If you suspect kennel cough, Gerlach recommends taking your dog to a veterinarian. To reduce exposure to other dogs, vets often don’t allow the infected dog into the general waiting area.

Symptoms include dry, harsh coughing, retching, snorting, gagging, and sneezing, but Gerlach says if there is a secondary infection, other problems could arise:

“In most cases, it’s restricted to the upper airways and the cough can persist for several days and longer depending on the extent on the irritation and damage. If there is a secondary infection, then obviously there could be some pretty severe consequences with progression to pneumonia.”

Gerlach says he doesn’t know of other communities in Alaska currently experiencing kennel cough but says it’s not an uncommon time of year for the infection to occur.

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Lisa Phu is a reporter at KTOO in Juneau.