New kennel cough strain found in area

Published 5:00 am Thursday, August 2, 2007

A local veterinarian reports a new strain of kennel cough hasinvaded the Lincoln County area, as well as other parts of thestate.

“We’ve had probably 40-50 cases in the last two to three weeks,”said Dr. Bob Watson of the Brookhaven Animal Hospital on Highway 51North. “I’ve heard the other clinics are seeing some, too.”

Watson said veterinarians regularly vaccinate for the bacteriathat usually causes kennel cough, an irritating malady that causesdogs to cough uncomfortably for a few weeks. However, the lateststrain of the illness is caused by something different.

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“The vaccination is usually pretty good at preventing kennelcough,” he said. “But lately, we’ve seen a high number of cases indogs that are vaccinated.

“We looked into it with some of the owners and other clinics whoare seeing some of the same things,” Watson continued. “What we’vefound is that it is kennel cough, but it’s being caused by someother organisms we can’t vaccinate for.”

Watson, who is the vice president of the MississippiVeterinarians’ Association, said he had spoken with doctors inplaces such as Greenwood, Grenada and Jackson. They also are allreporting the same strange new strain of what amounts to a commoncold for canines.

Watson said he and some of the other veterinarians in the statehave been working together with pharmaceutical companies to get aprevention or cure on the way as fast as possible.

“I talked with a pharmaceutical company in Kalamazoo, Mich., andwe’re sending them samples to identify what it is that are causinga lot of these cases,” he said. “We’ve not gotten those resultsback yet.”

Watson said the good news is that kennel cough is not a terriblyserious illness.

“It’s not generally fatal or very bad, but it’s generally justan aggravating cough for two-three weeks, and it’s highlycontagious,” he said. “We do like to put them on antibiotics toprevent it from escalating into pneumonia or other seriousinfections.”

He said the illness rarely proves fatal.

“Occasionally in very young and very old dogs it will grow intopneumonia complications. But for most healthy dogs, it’s not a veryserious illness,” said Watson, adding that the coughing can causethe dogs discomfort and irritation.

Therefore, treatment is important in preventing what amounts toa vicious cycle.

“We give the dogs cough suppressants to make them morecomfortable,” Watson said. “Like a lot of human diseases, the morethe dog coughs, the more throat and air passages are irritated,which causes them to cough more, so it’s a vicious cycle. Coughsuppression is a big part of treatment, because it gives them somerelief.”

Watson said the best plan for prevention is keeping a pet awayfrom other dogs altogether.

“The easiest way to prevent is not being around other dogs ifpossible,” he said.

Watson added that when the first signs show up, it’s time tobring pets in for inspection.

“We do absolutely like to see those dogs and put them onantibiotics to keep them from more serious problems like pneumoniaand other infections,” he said.

But, Watson said, the outbreak is not limited to Lincoln Countyor even to the state.

“They are seeing problems statewide, but also the AKC (AmericanKennel Club) has canceled shows in Pennsylvania and Virginia overthis problem,” he said. “If anyone has questions about it, they cancall us or any of the other vets in town.”