Photo by John F. Russell
Veterinarian Courtney Diehl checks out Dooley at Mt. Werner Veterinary Hospital on Monday afternoon in Steamboat Springs. Dooley wasn't at the hospital for kennel cough, but Diehl said she has seen many other animals this summer battling the contagious illness.
Steamboat Springs Usually, veterinarians at Steamboat Springs' Pet Kare Clinic might see a case of kennel cough - a bacterial infection that causes a coarse cough in dogs - about once a month.
In the past three weeks, the office has treated a couple of cases a day, Pet Kare Clinic veterinarian Susan Colfer said Monday.
"We are definitely in the middle of an outbreak right now, which we seem to go through every few years," Colfer said.
Kennel cough, also known as infectious tracheobronchitis or Bordetella, usually can be treated with cough suppressants and antibiotics.
The most common kennel cough symptom is a dog "coughing and gagging like they've swallowed something," said Michael Gotchey, a veterinarian at Steamboat Veterinary Hospital. That coughing sometimes can produce a small amount of white foam, and infected dogs might have a mild, low-grade fever or seem "offkilter a little bit," he said. Kennel cough tends to spread in areas where many dogs are close together, including the "dog-friendly world here in Steamboat," he said.
In the past month, Steamboat Veterinary Hospital has started to see as many as six to 10 cases of kennel cough a day. Veterinarians there had examined three infected dogs by about 2:30 p.m. Monday, Gotchey said.
Courtney Diehl, of Mt. Werner Veterinary Hospital, said her office also has seen cases of the infection.
Kennel cough usually lasts about seven to 10 days if treated with cough suppressants and antibiotics. Vaccines are available for the condition; those vaccines lessen the symptoms but do not prevent kennel cough, Gotchey said. Symptoms tend to last three to four weeks if left untreated.
The infection spreads through direct contact or can be aerosolized by a dog coughing or a person spraying water on an infected surface. Many aspects of how the infection spreads are similar to the way human respiratory conditions - such as the common cold or flu - can spread, Colfer said.
Dogs at the Steamboat Springs Animal Shelter were quarantined in late July for kennel cough, said Robin Miller, a volunteer at the shelter. During that time, visitors to the shelter were asked to wash their hands and wipe their shoes before entering and leaving the area where dogs are kept, and dogs were kept separated.
Colfer and Gotchey recommend that dog owners call a vet when their pet exhibits the symptoms of kennel cough. Complications are rare, but the cough can point to more serious conditions or develop into pneumonia, Colfer said.
Pet owners should keep their animal away from other dogs, and wash their hands after handling a dog with kennel cough.
"We tell people to quarantine their dog for 10 days, and typically, the signs will get better in three to five days," Colfer said.
Quarantining a dog includes not walking it in popular areas such as the Yampa River Core Trail or Spring Creek Trail, she said.