Fear of a canine coughing infection will keep shelter animals away from show
The Humane Society will not be sending any of its dogs to its annual fundraising dog show this weekend due to a contagious canine respiratory infection that has been spreading through the island.
The infection is not lethal, but causes dogs to cough and retch and develop “mild to more severe symptoms of tracheobronchitis”, according to veterinarian Brenda Bush of Island Veterinary Services.
“None of the shelter animals will be going. We don’t want to take the chance. If one gets [the infection], it can spread to all the rest in the kennels,” said Jason Jairam of the Humane Society, who added that if many of the dogs in the shelter became infected, it would be costly to treat them.
The annual Humane Society Dog Show, which raises money for the animal shelter, will go ahead as scheduled on Saturday, said organiser Cathy Richardson of Animal House.
“It’s our 20th dog show,” she said. “We’ve put a lot of work into it and we’re not going to cancel it now.”
She said that she had been informed by vets other than Ms Bush that the infection was not serious enough to cancel or postpone the dog show.
Last year, 132 dogs took part in the dog show, Ms Richardson said, and she anticipates a bigger turnout this year. “It’s a very popular show,” she said.
She said that the decision not to send Humane Society dogs to the event at Camana Bay on Saturday was to prevent the dogs taking any possible infection back to the kennels.
In previous years, the Humane Society has taken some dogs from the shelter to the dog show to give participants and the audience a sample of the dogs available for adoption.
Upper respiratory infection
Ms Bush said that since December, her clinic had been seeing 12 to 25 dogs a week with the upper respiratory infection. The illness affects mostly adult dogs and the youngest dog she had seen with it was six months old.
“Since there is no effective vaccine against this infection, the only preventative measure we can advise is to avoid allowing your dog contact with other dogs,” she said.
“Walking in areas where there are other dogs, play groups and community activities where dogs are congregating should be avoided at present to prevent potential contraction and spread of this infection.”
Dr. Lana Watler of Cayman Animal Hospital urged owners of infected dogs to use good judgment when deciding to take their animals to areas where other dogs will be present.
“The upper respiratory tract infection is likely airborne, meaning there does not have to be nose-to-nose contact to contract the infection.
The illness appears to last between seven to 10 days, is self limiting and is not considered life threatening.
If your dog has symptoms such as coughing and/or sneezing, it would be advisable to not expose them to other dogs,” she said.
Dogs with the infection, which is different from the kennel cough that often affects puppies, have a harsh cough with gagging or retching and the cough can be dry or productive, explained Ms Bush.
“Signs range from coughing but with normal activity and appetite to severe cough with fever, lethargy and decreased appetite.
Unfortunately, routine vaccines and Bordetella vaccines are not protective/preventative for this particular infection,” she said.
She advised dog owners to seek veterinary assistance if their adult dogs start coughing, so that more serious causes of cough such as heart disease can be ruled out.
She added that if dogs show signs of a respiratory infection, they should be isolated from other dogs to prevent the infection from spreading.