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My Dog Has Been Around a Sick Dog: What Do I Do?

By: Dr. Amanda Landis-Hanna
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We have been enjoying some beautiful weather in Virginia, great for getting outside with Sophie.  This weekend my family took her to a dog park for a nice romp, and had a great time.  As we were leaving, I heard the all-to-familiar hacking cough from a dog on the other side of the park.  My family loaded Sophie up to bring her home, while I chatted with the other pet parent.  The other dog (Lady) was recently adopted from a shelter, but it sounded like she came out with an upper respiratory problem, possibly Kennel Cough.

Luckily, Lady was feeling pretty well, and didn’t get very close to Sophie.  But to be on the safe side, the Hanna Family Decontamination began.  It’s pretty simple and straightforward, and it works well for a number of different illnesses. 

  1. Figure out what your dog was exposed to, and chat with your veterinarian.  If you are unsure, you can describe the suspected symptoms to your veterinary team.  They can tell you what symptoms to watch for, and any specific decontamination steps your house may need.
  2. Humans—Wash your hands.  If you had any contact with the ill dog, it is best to change into clean clothes and shoes.  Wash all clothing (and shoes) in hot soapy water.  Use bleach if the material can tolerate it.  Avoid giving dog kisses, especially if you do not know the dog.
  3. Environment—If a sick dog was in your environment, you should wipe all hard surfaces with disinfectant wipes, or use a disinfectant spray.  All dog toys, beds and bowls should be washed in hot soapy water.  (I run my dog toys through the dishwasher on Sanitize.) Dog crates and gates should also be cleaned.
  4. Yard—If a dog with a gastrointestinal illness, such as roundworms, has been in the yard (or dog park) it is vital to pick up and remove the feces.  Viruses (such as Parvo) and parasites (such as hookworms) can remain in their dormant state for years, to later infect another dog.
  5. Dogs—If you know a dog with a contagious illness had direct contact with your dog, it may be a good idea to give her a bath.  If germs were coughed onto her coat, and she grooms herself, she could get ill later.

These hygiene steps are very basic.  In fact, they are considered standard of care for all dog facilities and veterinary hospitals.  With basic hygiene and awareness, pet parents can prevent the spread of many contagious diseases, reducing the risk for illness in dogs. 

Respiratory diseases, such as Canine Influenza virus and Kennel cough (Bordatella bronchiseptica) are commonplace.  In most cases they do not cause severe illness.  In some cases, however, they can lead to pneumonia, which can be serious and life threatening.  Severe illness is most common in puppies, senior pets, dogs with heart and respiratory problems, and brachycephalic dogs (those with short noses, such as Bulldogs and Boxers).  In severe cases, dogs may need to be hospitalized for oxygen support and other care.

Many diseases may cause a sneeze or a cough.  It is a good idea to follow the basic hygiene steps above in any case, to minimize the spread of germs.  And if your dog will be exposed to other dogs, consider vaccines for Bordatella and Canine Influenza.  These are not considered “Core” vaccines, but they can be useful in reducing the risk for severe illness and spread of these diseases.  (Currently, there is no vaccine for the ‘Chicago’ H3:N2 strain of Canine Influenza virus that has infected more than 1,000 dogs this year.)

The most important thing to keep in mind with respiratory disease is true for dogs, and for humans:  if you (or your dog) don’t feel well, stay at home.  Isolation is the best method to prevent transmission.  Rest and fluids will speed the progress of the disease in the body, allowing a faster return to normal.  Just as humans are advised to stay at home when we are sick, veterinarians advise pet parents to avoid exposing other dogs.  Since dogs sniff everything as their primary form of identification, nasal (nose) contact is incredibly common.  Keep in mind; dogs may be contagious without showing any symptoms (also known as a carrier state).  So for the benefit of all dogs, please keep your dog at home and call the vet if you hear sneezing or coughing. 

Sophie is doing great, with no signs of any illness.  The decontamination may have worked, or she may not have been exposed at all.  Either way, her health and safety (and the health and safety of all dogs) is what is important.  I clean up after her the same way I clean up after my toddler—lots and lots!

If you have a topic or a question, feel free to tweet me at: @DrLHVet.

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Posted on Jun 29, 2015 by VOYCE Health
Vets & Experts