Vet nurse Sharon Kelly says she hasn’t seen an outbreak of kennel cough like the one circulating in Newcastle and Lake Macquarie, in a very long time.
The owner of K9 Comfort, who has worked within the animal health sector for more than 20 years, is warning pet owners to be aware of the risks of the condition that is currently rife in the region, and vaccinate their four-legged friends immediately.
“As a vet nurse I would see a couple of cases a week and there would always be a few more around school holidays,” she said.
“I’ve talked to lots of vets in the region lately and they’re inundated, seeing six to eight cases a day, and you know how many clinics there are in and around Newcastle. That’s a lot of kennel cough.”
Ms Kelly said the recent school holidays meant owners and pets had travelled more than usual, inadvertently increasing their risk of infection.
“There have been more people out and about at dog parks, people have had their pets in boarding, and in general more socializing has taken place.”
Kennel Cough, or Canine Infectious Tracheobronchitis, is airborne, Ms Kelly said, making it highly contagious.
“It’s carried in droplets of saliva,” she said.
“Dogs share a ball, they walk past a fence and another dog barks at them, and I think water bowl sharing is not ideal either.
“It’s great that Councils are adding them at parks and café owners are including them, but vets will warn against using them.”
The signs of kennel cough, Ms Kelly said, are hard to ignore.
“The cough is because they have so much mucus and they’re trying to bring it up,” she said.
“They may get a fever and lack of appetite, but it’s the hacking cough that is most upsetting.
“Most owners report initially believe their pet had choked on something.”
The infectious condition is similar to the flu in humans, requiring an annual vaccination and taking up to two weeks before being effective, Ms Kelly said.
“Just like we get vaccinated and can still get a small dose of flu, the kennel cough vaccine doesn’t cover every single strain out there but it’s your best protection.
“Get your dog vaccinated, if you’re going to take your dog to a park avoid the fenced-in parks, take your pet to a secluded, out-of-the-way park, take your own water bowl and keep them away from other dogs until this has gone.”