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'Unusual' strain of kennel cough is spreading aggressively between B.C. dogs

BC SPCA warns dog owners of the highly contagious strain, first seen in Kamloops and surrounding areas.

An “unusual” strain of kennel cough among dogs in British Columbia is popping up, with 24 cases detected in BC SPCA facilities, and more cases of the virus being reported.

The contagious cough started appearing in Kamloops and surrounding area at the beginning of summer.

All the dogs in the SPCA with the virus have been isolated and are recovering well. However, Dr. Emilia Gordon, senior manager of animal health for the BC SPCA is concerned that this strain isn’t detected by their standard testing.

“Any dogs in our care who were showing symptoms were immediately isolated, but as we began testing for known viruses and bacteria, the tests kept coming back negative,” says Gordon.

“After consulting with specialists, we believe the cause could be a virus that isn’t detected by commercially available tests.”

Dr. Gordon is urging dog owners to immediately isolate their dogs and consult a veterinarian if coughing begins, especially because the cause of this outbreak is unknown.

“The concerning aspect of these cases is how aggressively the disease has spread between dogs, even if they weren’t in close contact,” Dr. Gordon explains.

Kennel cough is a highly infectious condition, in which dogs develop a loud, brash cough that can sometimes be accompanied by eye and nasal discharge.

Although the illness is treatable, Yaletown Pet Hospital veterinarian Dr. Karley Little also says immediate isolation - anywhere from 7 to 10 days - is the key to stopping kennel cough.

"Dogs become infected by either inhaling the bacteria or virus into their respiratory system, through shared contact with contaminated objects such as water bowls, or via direct contact with infected dogs," Dr. Little adds.

The BC SPCA is currently collecting samples to investigate this strain and is teaming up with specialists to quickly find the cause of the new outbreak.

“Most affected dogs were vaccinated,” Dr. Gordon says. “So while we still recommend the vaccine to reduce illness, it appears that we may be dealing with a virus that is not part of the current vaccine.”


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