Keeping our dogs safe and healthy is always a top priority. When their lives are in danger, as pet parents, we must remain vigilant.
In central Virginia, and surrounding areas, veterinarians are reporting a new, highly contagious respiratory disease that is unknown in origin. Vets are warning pet owners to keep their dogs at home, away from other dogs and public places until the disease is under control.
Charlottesville’s Autumn Trails Veterinary Center reported the “significant outbreak” this past Sunday and Monday, claiming that more than 1,000 cases have appeared in surrounding areas and 150 dogs locally.
Other states, including Louisiana and Texas, are also reporting similar cases, but veterinarians aren’t entirely sure they are dealing with the same pathogens.
“The symptoms present as a mild to severe coughing and sneezing, with low-grade fevers and lethargy,” Autumn Trails Veterinary Center staff wrote on its website. “The incubation period is from seven to 10 days, and the duration appears to be seven to 21 days. Although no deaths have been reported, it appears to be highly contagious.”
Vet technician, Emily Gordon, who works at Autumn Trails Veterinary Center, told PEOPLE:
“There’s no need to panic about it. Right now, it’s a very mild strain of whatever it is — just a mild cough, usually lasting the first few days, though I’ve heard of people hearing longer.”
Gordon recommends that dogs in the reported areas stay away from doggy daycares, dog groomers, parks, pet stores and boarding facilities until the disease is under control and properly identified.
“There tends to be a lot of canine coughs in the summer because boardings increase when traveling increase,” she says. “It’s almost as comparable to putting your kids in daycare. If you put a bunch of kids together, eventually you’re going to get a cold. If you’re not good at staying at home, one kid’s going to get it, and then the rest and the rest. That’s the same concept with dogs.”
“If you don’t have to expose your dog to other dogs, now’s the time to leave them at home if you can,” Gordon suggests.
If you live in the aforementioned places and must bring your dog into high-traffic areas, like the vet’s office, try to remain aware of your surroundings. If it’s possible, keep your dog in a carrier. Or ask office staff if you can wait in the car until they’re ready for you in the exam room.
Autumn Trails Veterinary Center is working around the clock with the Virginia Board of Veterinary Medicine and vets from vaccine companies to get control of the disease and figure out how to protect the canine community.
The website adds, “Tests are underway, and we will share those results as soon as we have them.”