Kingstonist’s Wizard of Paws: Contagious diseases in your neighbourhood

City of Kingston signage indicating reports of kennel cough and parvovirus in the region posted at Meadowbrook Dog Park in mid-August 2021. Photo via Meadowbrook Dog Park group on Facebook.

You may have heard of recent outbreaks of kennel cough or parvovirus around town. Though I have not personally seen such an increase where I work at Kingston Veterinary Clinic, I have talked to a few colleagues around town and I’m hearing similar results. There have been a handful of parvovirus cases in the region and this seems to often happens every couple of years, predominately among puppies who are not yet vaccinated. Occasionally though, it does also happen with adult dogs.

Kennel cough or Bordetellosis, on the other hand, is a lot more complex. Without specific testing, most of the time our diagnosis is made based on the history that you, the pet owner, provides with us and the clinical signs when we examine your pet. Kennel cough is often lumped into a collection of other respiratory diseases known as a canine infectious respiratory disease complex (CIRDC). Kennel cough in itself may be fairly self-limiting in that some dogs will not be severely affected and may get better on their own, while others require medication. When a pet has a respiratory disease, it does potentially open them up to other infectious organisms that are not Bordetella.

Parvovirus and bordetellosis are highly contagious. This is one of the reasons why vaccination is so important. Dogs who are not vaccinated should not hang out with other dogs, especially if you don’t know their vaccine status. Bordetella vaccines are given either every six months or annually. Parvovirus vaccines should be given in a series of at least two or three vaccinations if your dog has never had one before, and then subsequently every three years after that. Why these intervals? This is what they are labelled for, and while immunity may potentially last longer, it is not a uniform equivalent for every dog. It’s not worth the risk of having your unvaccinated or overdue dog catch something that could potentially lead to more serious illness or even death. The only exception would be if there is a diagnosed medical condition that would make vaccination itself risky.

One thing that we are veterinarians have noted during the last 18 months is that many pets are not getting in or able to get in for their vaccines when they are due. There are a multitude of reasons for this, but the only one that we can really control is actually scheduling the appointments. For most vet clinics, the current wait time to get in for an appointment is around one month for non-urgent problems such as vaccinations. The vaccines don’t necessarily have to be given on the exact day that they are due, but you should not wait too long. For our puppies, I would not suggest not waiting more than 4 to 5 weeks between their vaccination. If you are thinking of getting a puppy, I would highly recommend contacting your vet clinic and making an appointment now for when the appropriate time to get their next vaccine will be.

Vaccines exist for a reason. Preventative care is way easier and less expensive than treating problems once they are already there. When your pet is getting their vaccines, they’re also getting a health check from a trained medical professional so we can make sure that there isn’t anything else to be concerned about, or, if there is, it can be detected early. So if you want your pet to live their best life, take the precautionary steps and embrace vaccines to keep your furry friend safe.

If there’s something you’ve often wondered or questions you have about regarding pets, let us know by email at [email protected].

*Please note that specific medical questions about your pet cannot be addressed and you should speak with your personal veterinarian.

Dr. Ryan Llera is a small animal veterinarian at the Kingston Veterinary Clinic. Though originally from Florida, he married a Canadian (who is also a vet!) and they share their home with a cat, three dogs, two horses, and a rabbit. Dr. Llera also contributes writing to various other animal and veterinary related blogs. You can see what else he is up to on FacebookInstagram, or Twitter.

Disclaimer: All columns are personally written and my opinion, and may not necessarily reflect those of current or former employers.

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