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Kennel cough, and perhaps dog flu, hit Grand County

by Stephanie Miller
Sky-Hi Daily News
Byron Hetzler/Sky-Hi Daily News
ALL | Sky-Hi Daily News

Mountain Dawg Outfitters in Fraser is taking precautions against Kennel Cough and Canine Influenza by asking customers to keep their dogs outside the store and to wash their hands when they walk through the doors.

A sign on the door states that several cases of Kennel Cough and Canine Influenza have been reported in the county. Both are very contagious.

Store Manager Connie Scott said she has heard about recent cases from veterinarians and the store does not want to risk spreading the diseases. She said she has not seen any actual cases of influenza.

“I really just encourage people to do research and talk to their vets,” Scott said.

What’s the difference between the two?

Canine Influenza, or dog flu, is a highly contagious respiratory infection in dogs caused by a virus. It is similar to Kennel Cough, a highly contagious illness that can be caused by viral infections or bacterial infections such as Bordetella.

Symptoms include coughing, watery eyes, an inflamed and scratchy throat and a runny nose ” much like a common cold in humans. The influenza virus, however, is more severe than the Canine Cough and can result in death. There is no vaccine for the virus.

Dr. Mike Brooks, DVM, has owned a veterinary practice in Granby for 23 years. He said he has not seen any cases of Canine Influenza in the past year. He has seen one case over the last couple of years, but it wasn’t inside Grand County.

“I don’t think there’s been a case that I’m aware of,” Brooks said. “But that’s not to say respiratory disease is not going on.”

Brooks has seen his share of sick, coughing dogs, he added ” but none that warranted lab testing for influenza. Comparing the Canine Influenza to Kennel Cough is like comparing the human flu virus to the common cold, he said. The flu involves vomiting, body aches and massive discharge.

“It really knocks you down,” he said.

Dr. Shauna Omlie, DVM, who owns Byers Peak Veterinarian Clinic in Fraser and has been a practicing veterinarian for 28 years, said she has seen several cases of Kennel Cough and some suspected cases of influenza at her clinic ” although none of the flu cases were documented.

Influenza is tricky to diagnose with testing, she said, adding that the disease “is not a clear-cut, simple thing.”

Omlie has seen several cases of dogs from the Front Range that have shown more severe symptoms than Kennel Cough, however, and therefore believes they carried an influenza virus.

The bottom line is to seek treatment, she said, and take precautions.

“If owners have a coughing dog, keep the dog inside. If neighbors have dogs, warn them so they can keep their dogs in too,” Omlie said. “Do a quarantine-type of deal. The better job we can do with that, the quicker we can get this under control.”

Dogs should be kept quiet and comfortable, she added, and be brought to a vet for a proper diagnosis. Pet owners with coughing dogs should wash their hands with anti-bacterial soap before managing other dogs.

Brooks explained that due to recent trends, people are more mobile and therefore more prone to leave their dogs in kennels or doggy day care centers, where diseases spread more readily.

“Wherever animals congregate they’ll pass stuff back and forth,” Brooks added.

There is no evidence that the virus can be transferred to people, horses, cats or other species.

Owners can protect their dogs from diseases other than influenza by getting them vaccinated three weeks before they are put in a kennel or some type of boarding. The dogs usually require two shots about three weeks apart, so Brooks encourages owners to plan accordingly. Some kennels require vaccines every six months, he added.

In any case, talk to your vet. Treatments could be as simple as a few cough suppressants and antibiotics. But it’s better to be sure, Omlie pointed out.

“It’s not uncommon for this time of year to be seeing this kind of stuff,” she added. “See a vet. You can have other things causing a cough.”


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