B.C. SPCA warns of unusual outbreak of kennel cough among dogs

The B.C. SPCA said no dogs have become seriously ill and all are recovering, however they are concerned about how aggressive the disease spreads.

Vancouver Sun 2 minute read August 6, 2021

The B.C. SPCA is warning about an outbreak of an unusual strain of kennel cough among dogs in the province.

So far, the agency has seen 24 cases of the illness that specialists believe could be caused by a virus that isn’t detected by commercially available tests.

“We first started seeing cases in dogs coming into our facilities in July and began hearing of similar cases in the community, particularly in the Kamloops region,” said Dr. Emilia Gordon, senior manager of animal health for the B.C. SPCA, in a statement.

“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.”

Gordon said the B.C. SPCA is raising awareness with veterinarians and the public to help prevent the spread of the disease, which causes coughing, and eye or nasal discharge.

“Because the causative agent is unknown we want to make sure that people are vigilant in isolating their dogs immediately if they start coughing,” she said.

The B.C. SPCA said no dogs have become seriously ill and all are recovering, however they are concerned about how aggressive the disease spreads.

They are asking people to isolate their pet immediately if they begin coughing and to seek veterinary advice.

The SPCA has collected samples to figure out the cause of the outbreak.

Gordon said most of the sick dogs they have seen have had a previous kennel cough vaccine, and vets in the community also report illness in vaccinated dogs.

Like many other respiratory vaccines, this one only protects against certain strains, and Gordon said it’s important for dog owners to know that the vaccine may not be fully protective against the new strain.

Asked whether the dogs could be experiencing the effects of wildfire smoke, Gordon said there are a few reasons why they don’t think its the primary cause.

“We have had several dogs get sick who had fairly heavy smoke exposure and were fine, but later were exposed to a sick dog and got sick within a few days,” said Gordon.

She also said that if the main cause was smoke they would expect more consistent illness across the board, including in other species of animals.

The B.C. SPCA helped move some dogs during wildfire evacuation orders, including some who were not yet sick.

“Some of these dogs got sick in a smoke-free environment a few days after moving, indicating they were exposed to a contagious cause of coughing in the original location,” she said.

ticrawford@postmedia.com