“Kennel cough” on the decline but still requires precaution

Dog owners in Gallatin County have been put on alert to act cautiously due to the spread of “kennel cough.” This is a common and broad term used to describe Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease Complex (CIRDC). Shelter Medicine, a program of the veterinary school at the University of Wisconsin, has been studying the disease and has helped animal shelters in the area avoid contact.


Shelter Medicine reports CIRDC as a complicated syndrome, which isn’t always limited to infection in the trachea, nor always exhibits itself as a cough. The disease can also manifest as sneezing or nasal and ocular discharge. The Department of Livestock is monitoring the outbreak, recommending pet owners limit their dog’s contact with other animals in the community. Shelter Medicine reports that the disease is not vaccine-preventable, due to a high number of limitations. The disease can be deadly, progressing to life-threatening pneumonia in as little as two to three days.


Vet clinics in Bozeman are taking extreme caution when treating dogs with symptoms. Baxter Creek Vet Clinic uses a separate entrance and an isolation room. Montana Vet Hospital is treating these dogs in their parking lot. Both are methods to create as little cross-contamination as possible.


The outbreak and the precautionary steps have hampered dog owners and their dogs’ ability to enjoy time together. Haley Sargent, a student at MSU and employee at the Montana Vet Hospital explained how the outbreak has affected her and her dogs’ life by eliminating her ability to bring her dogs to work, dog parks or on hikes. “I have had to limit everything down to leash walks only. To me, it isn’t as fun of exercise, and having to worry about them potentially getting sick is a stressor,” she said. “I would rather be conscious of the matter than try to risk their health by continuing fun exercise.” Another student at MSU, Cassie Chriest, has been forced to avoid populated areas such as dog parks and public beaches. “I have limited his walks to areas where he will not be in contact with other dogs and have only been letting him play with dogs I know have not been infected. My dog’s favorite summer activity is swimming so I think he misses that the most.”


The precautionary steps are due to how easily the infection can be spread. It can travel through saliva, such as sharing water bowls, and even if a dog sniffs another. Shedding of pathogens typically lasts 5-10 days but can go longer. This aspect of the disease complicates its management and increases the need for isolation.


Many Gallatin Valley veterinary clinics have a consensus on the need for dogs with symptoms to be treated immediately. The disease can progress rapidly, but when caught and treated with antibiotics, it can typically be wiped out within a week. They also report that the outbreak appears to be on the decline. When it began, clinics reported seeing over 150 cases, but that number has subsided. They hope that by prolonging the caution, the disease will cease in the county.


Veterinary clinics welcome anyone to call with questions or updates on the outbreak. Check with your local clinic to see if they are e-mailing out updates, as some are.