Several cases of a canine illness called “kennel cough” in the past few weeks can potentially be linked to the Ferguson Forest Dog Park, where the contagious illness has likely been spread between the furry friends. Local resident Brian McKee took to social media to give a gentle reminder to pet parents about the importance of pets isolating when they are sick, just as humans do.

Brian took his dog to the dog park on July 15, and that same evening, his dog began to show symptoms of illness. A visit to the veterinary clinic on the following Monday revealed the illness to be kennel cough, a contagious illness in dogs that is similar to human bronchitis. Brian never saw any sick dogs at the park on the day he went, but that is the only place his dog could have picked it up. 

“Someone brought their [sick] dog to the park, but that dog may not have shown any symptoms… it takes a day or two for it to show,” Brian told the Times. In the case of Brian’s dog, symptoms including coughing and spitting up appeared quickly after exposure. 

Brian shared that his understanding of veterinary guidelines suggests that dogs who are noticeably ill should isolate at home for 10 days. He suggests that pet owners should exercise caution, although it is possible that some of the cases linked to the dog park are nothing that the owners knew about. A friend of Brian’s did reveal to him that he observed what appeared to be a sick dog at the park recently, indicating that there is a need for education. In any event, Brian does not blame the dog park at all. 

“The Ferguson Forest Dog Park is fantastic, I will continue bringing my dog there,” added Brian. “It’s well looked after, the volunteers are incredible, and the people who go there are exceptional. Every time I go there, I have lots of fun and my dog has lots of fun.”

The Times reached out to Dr. Pia Gamberg of the Kemptville Animal Hospital for an expert opinion on isolation guidelines when dealing with a sick dog. 

“Most humans have had first-hand experience with infectious or contagious diseases including the flu, common cold, and in more recent years, COVID 19,” said Dr. Gamberg. “Dogs also have a number of contagious diseases which can spread rapidly between them. Like us, many factors determine who gets sick, how sick they get and for how long. A common contagious disease we see in veterinary offices in Kemptville at varying times throughout the year is kennel cough.”

Dr. Gamberg explained that kennel cough is a common term applied to several illnesses with varying causes. There are vaccines available for many of these infections which pet parents are encouraged to talk to their veterinarian about. 

“A common misconception is that only dogs at kennels – where they are co-mingled with unfamiliar dogs and in close contact with other dogs – are at risk for kennel cough,” added Dr. Gamberg. “Any time and situation that dogs are in close contact with other dogs and can share their respiratory secretions, there is a risk of contracting kennel cough. Dog parks, groomers, daycares, and veterinary clinics are all potential exposure areas. Even walking your dog down the street and greeting an infected dog is a risk, as is bringing home clothes contaminated by the respiratory secretions from an infected dog.”

Dr. Gamberg explained some of the precautions that can be taken to avoid infection. 

“Not every potential disease environment can or should be avoided,” she said. “Dogs, like people, are social and thoroughly enjoy dog parks or working, agility or obedience classes. Fortunately, there are things we can do to minimize risks for our pets and other dogs. During the COVID pandemic, we were advised to stay home if we were not feeling well. The same is true for pets. If your dog is not feeling well, keep them home to rest and recover. This strategy also decreases the risk of spread to other pets. Other important recommendations include avoiding the sharing of water, food bowls and toys, as well as vaccinating for common contagious diseases such as Bordetella, Parainfluenza and Adenovirus.”

The news is not all grim when it comes to dogs and their illnesses. Dr. Gamberg also reminds us that dogs should get out and enjoy their environment. 

“In North Grenville we have the tremendous luxury of a wonderful fenced dog park and many walking trails, great doggie daycare facilities and a variety of dog training options,” said Dr. Gamberg. “We encourage you to not isolate your dogs unless they are ill. Take the responsible steps to protect your pets and other dogs in the community. Get out and enjoy the great outdoors together. If you are concerned your pet may have contracted an infectious disease such as kennel cough, please contact your local veterinarian. We have several in our community to serve you and your pets.”


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