Cases of highly contagious kennel cough spike in dogs on Oahu

An outbreak of the highly contagious respiratory disease known as kennel cough is infecting dogs on Oahu.

More than seven veterinarians and pet clinics around Oahu reported a spike in cases of kennel cough, and the majority of the cases are on the Windward side of Oahu in Kailua.

“It’s a very distinct hack. It’s very distinctive, best way I can put it. It’s not a bark. It’s nothing else,” said Kailua resident Rita Shuford.

Her 14-year-old dog Koa came down with kennel cough last week after Koa’s housemate, Chica, contracted it.

That distinct cough is the primary symptom of kennel cough.

Chica’s owner, Aaron Harrington, said he noticed something was wrong when Chica kept waking up at night coughing.

“She just woke up three or four times, just really loud cough, hack. That’s how I noticed something was wrong,” he said.

Both Koa and Chica have kennel cough, but they are not alone. Veterinarian Candice Denham told KHON2 Kailua Animal Clinic has treated between 10 to 15 cases of kennel cough in the last two weeks.

Makai Animal Clinic also reports seeing more cases than usual.

So how do you know if your dog has kennel cough?

The main symptom is the honking cough, but your dog may also sneeze, have a runny nose and eye discharge. More severe cases may see lethargy and loss of appetite.

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“Most typical cases that we see are very mild and self-limiting and patients that are immunocompromised and young patients, such as puppies seem to be more susceptible to the more severe form,” Denham said. “It can be more severe. If it’s a persistent infection and even though the infection is cleared quickly, the cough can persist for months.”

Denham suggests you vaccinate your dog at least five days before you put your dog in boarding or day care, or every six months to help prevent kennel cough.

“The vaccination is pretty effective, but there are some strains of Bordetella that it doesn’t protect against, and most patients don’t develop symptoms until four to 10 days after they’ve been exposed to the virus,” Denham said. “It typically will prevent them and limit their infection to a sub-clinical infection, which means that they don’t experience symptoms, or a milder infection. But no vaccination, unfortunately, is a 100-percent protective.”

“That was the thing,” Harrington said. “She had all her shots and she still somehow contracted it.”

If your dog does contract kennel cough, Denham says the best way to disinfect the area after is to use a bleach solution, of half a cup of bleach to one gallon of water.

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