Dog infection called ‘kennel cough’ on the rise in Routt County |

Dog infection called ‘kennel cough’ on the rise in Routt County

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Amanda Williams grew concerned when her Labrador retriever started aggressively coughing, and she believed he was choking.

After days of nonstop coughing, she took her dog to Pet Kare Clinic, where he was diagnosed with canine infectious respiratory disease, also known as kennel cough.

Williams’ dog was one of many cases Routt County veterinarians have seen during the past few weeks, which Christopher Schwarz, co-owner of Pet Kare Clinic, described as a “flare up.”

“This time of year, it’s cool, so things survive longer in the environment, but it’s still warm enough for dogs to be in the dog park,” Schwarz said, adding that as pandemic restrictions have eased, people have begun traveling again, leaving their dogs in kennels, where the infection is often transmitted.

The disease is spread through dogs breathing in close, contained quarters as well as dogs playing “nose-to-nose” in dog parks or through fences.

“Dogs in dog parks are not like humans,” Schwarz said. “There’s a lot more aggressive play, and it’s a lot easier for them to spread the virus than it would be for humans.”

Lee Meyring, a veterinarian at Steamboat Veterinary Hospital, said the infection pattern is cyclical, and getting dogs vaccinated is the best way to prevent the spread of kennel cough.

Elaine Hicks, executive director of the Routt County Humane Society, said all dogs are vaccinated as they enter the facility.

“It’s highly recommended puppies have that shot. It’s kind of like a flu shot for people,” she said. 

Similar to the flu shot, Meyring said, the vaccine is not foolproof, as there are multiple strains of the disease, and vaccines typically only have one viral or one bacterial component.

“It’s hard to make a vaccine that’s going to cover everything,” he said. 

Hicks said if dog owners see their dog is coughing more frequently or aggressively than usual, or if they notice a yellow discharge running from their dog’s nose, they should take the dog to a veterinarian immediately to rule out the possibility of a more serious infection.

If the dog is diagnosed with kennel cough, Schwarz said owners are directed to quarantine their dog away from other dogs for three weeks or until the coughing subsides.

“A lot of dogs maybe haven’t been vaccinated,” he said. “It’s just like any virus. If somebody has a cold and they’re getting close, it spreads that way.”

The infection can go away on its own, though veterinarians often treat it with a cough suppressant and an antibiotic to prevent the infection from growing more severe.

While the infection is considered mild, Williams said her dog’s cough was “unbelievably gnarly” and “not a sound you want to hear.” 

Williams also encouraged other dog owners to vaccinate their pets, so they can avoid the high cost of treating a sick dog, which she said cost her $150 between vet visits, antibiotics and cough suppressants.

Similar to the common cold and flu in humans, most dogs will be sick for a week or two then recover with no long-term problems, though very old and very young dogs may suffer more severe side effects.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Steamboat and Routt County make the Steamboat Pilot & Today’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.