A highly contagious respiratory illness that is affecting dogs is prompting Miami-Dade Animal Services to issue a community alert.
Veterinarians have seen a recent increase in the number of Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease Complex cases across South Florida.
CIRDC can pose a serious health risk to dogs.
“(It is) caused by multiple viruses and bacteria that pretty much infect the respiratory tract of dogs,"Dr. Maria Serrano from MDAS said.
Coughing dogs produce virus-containing mists that can travel 20 feet or more.
Symptoms include coughing, sneezing, and discharge from the nose and/or eyes.
While the illness can begin with coughing and sneezing, there are other signs too.
"The cough and the sneezing may become something a little more serious, like lethargy and not eating, and just not feeling good. In that case you need to visit your veterinarian immediately,” Dr. Serrano said.
CIRDC is similar to kennel cough but it's more complicated. Several viruses and bacteria can cause it and there aren't vaccines for all of them.
So what can you do?
“Avoid dog nose to nose contact, don't take them to places that they can, you know, just be with other dogs,” Dr. Serrano said.
No dog parks, dog runs or doggie daycare, she said.
Grooming facilities may also be an issue if there is contact or close proximity to other dogs.
The virus can be carried on people’s clothing, hands, and on items such as food and water bowls, collars, leashes, toys, and bedding.
Right now, because of the increasing number of dogs infected, Miami-Dade Animal Services is suspending some services.
"We are suspending wellness services such as vaccinations, microchip and spay and neuter. We are suspending intake of owner surrenders into our population and we are suspending events that require our dogs to go into the community,” Dr. Serrano said.
If your dog does get the respiratory illness, there are things that can help.
"Your veterinarian can probably recommend, depending on the severity of the case, hospitalization, multiple antibiotics, and just respiratory support for your dog," Dr, Serrano said.
Dog owners should also make sure their pets are up to date with their vaccines.
Also, most importantly, get veterinary help right away if needed.
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