Dog owners warned about canine cough outbreak in New Zealand

Dog owners warned about canine cough outbreak in New Zealand
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Dog owners are urged to be on high alert as an epidemic of canine cough spreads in New Zealand.

The illness, which is similar to the common cold in humans, is a contagious disease between dogs and is often spread at boarding kennels, training classes, doggie daycares, dog shows, pet shops, parks and beaches, or any other place where dogs socialise. Dog-to-dog contact through sniffing, sneezing, coughing, and sharing water bowls are other ways it is transmitted. 

It can take between three and 10 days from exposure to the onset of clinical signs. Infected dogs can remain contagious and continue to spread the illness for "extended periods of time", even after recovery, the NZ Vet Association (NZVA) says.

Any susceptible dog that contacts another infected dog, or a dog not yet showing clinical signs, or touches a contaminated surface is at risk of catching canine cough.

The signs a dog has caught the disease may include a loud high-pitched cough that sounds like a "goose honk", loss of appetite, lack of energy, retching or hacking, or nasal discharge, NZVA says.

Bouts of coughing can last for several weeks and exercise may exacerbate it.

"The current epidemic of canine cough is a normal occurrence in New Zealand and is caused by disease agents that are already present in New Zealand (i.e. it is not an exotic disease agent)," NZVA says. 

"It is not related to COVID-19, and it is not zoonotic (not transmitted from animals to humans). Good hygiene measures should always be used when dealing with animals, and particularly sick animals. Do not put masks on dogs."

Canine cough injections help reduce the severity of the disease, but not all agents that cause the illness are included in the available vaccines, NZVA adds.

If a dog starts showing signs they've caught the illness or they've been in contact with another dog that has canine cough, it's recommended they're isolated and their vet is called for advice.

Vets may authorise treatment, especially if a dog has other conditions such as heart disease, but medications such as antibiotics will only be authorised if a dog has signs of bacterial infection such as a fever or lack of appetite.

"Remember to ring ahead to organise how and when to present your dog to the clinic - this means appropriate hygiene and infection prevention measures can be used to keep other dogs safe if your dog does have canine cough," NZVA says.

A Wellington City Council spokesperson told Newshub while they couldn't confirm an upsurge in cases in the city, owners should vaccinate their dogs annually. They added commercial kennels are urged to have isolation facilities in place to prevent the spread of the disease.

To get pets ready for their summer holiday, NZVA recommends that their vaccinations are up to date, owners have enough medications and food for their pets for the time they're away, and the contact details for their microchip are current.

There is further advice for whether pets are travelling away with families, checking into kennels, or staying with a pet sitter.