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This week, customers of Pawms pet resort received emails alerting them to an outbreak of Bordetella – or “kennel cough” – in the businesses’ Birmingham and Avondale locations.
This is an example of what Dr. Caleb Thomas of the Avondale Animal Hospital said is a typical outbreak due to an increase in pet boarding around holidays.
Pawms advised owners not to bring dogs to the shelter if they displayed symptoms such as a cough or watery eyes and assured customers that they were disinfecting and reducing capacity to slow the spread of the disease.
The Lede reached out to Pawms for comment and they said they preferred to leave it to a veterinarian.
Thomas began seeing cases roughly two weeks ago and has treated more than 25 patients for the disease this week alone.
He said that much like human colds, the variety of viruses categorized under the term “kennel cough” are not a fatal danger to most healthy dogs but could take a dangerous turn if complications like pneumonia occurred.
Symptoms of kennel cough can include cough, lethargy, food aversion or a mild fever, but with the recommended antibiotics, Thomas said most pets will be over the illness in a week or so.
He explained that although kennel cough is species-specific to dogs, environments where the disease can flourish and spread quickly among multiple animals in close quarters can also produce respiratory illnesses that affect cats.
”The breeding grounds for these respiratory illnesses is similar to the breeding ground we talked about for COVID,” said Thomas. “We’re talking about close quarters, multiple animals with exposure from different environments all culminating in the same area. Even a boarding facility that is pristinely clean can have an outbreak because of how compact everything is.”
While kennel cough is a mostly airborne disease, Thomas said some bacterial strains of the disease can survive on hard surfaces, so he has advised boarding facilities suffering from the outbreak in both Avondale and downtown Birmingham to heavily disinfect, as well as quarantine dogs showing any symptoms.
Avondale Animal Hospital is currently studying this specific strain of kennel cough, which it says could be a strain of canine flu, in the hopes of creating a vaccine. In the meantime, they advised dog owners to keep pets at home if they display symptoms, and to get the preventative kennel cough vaccine that has a 60-70% success rate of prevention and reduces risk of pneumonia and other fatal complications in dogs that contract the disease.