Highly contagious respiratory disease affecting dogs in Hilton Head, Bluffton

Local News

Several dogs in Hilton Head and Bluffton are being treated for a highly contagious respiratory disease.

It started popping up about three weeks ago and most vets say they’re seeing about 5 cases of this respiratory illness a day. 

“We’re seeing dogs with a history of being around other dogs. Whether being in a kennel, boarded, veterinary hospital, dog parks, and then within three or four days of that experience, they start coughing,” said Ben Parker a Veterinarian at Coastal Veterinary Clinic.

Vets say its a bad cough that causes inflammatory issues, gagging, vomiting and, for some, pneumonia.

“I was seeing first a couple one day, and then five the next day and then probably 10 the next day,” said Kirk Dixon, a veterinarian at Hilton Head Veterinary Clinics.

“Probably about 75 percent more than we would see this time of year in a normal period,” said Curtis Hennessey a veterinarian with Plantation Animal Hospital.

While it’s not deadly, the respiratory disease is proving to be highly contagious. Vets say it’s resistant to previous vaccines, but it does respond to antibiotics. 

“The good news is it appears to be bacterial because they all respond to antibiotics, and we do a cough suppressant because the cough is half the problem,” said Dixon. “But they’ve all responded fine, I’ve had no serious complications.”

Parker said they have not had any fatalities, though some dogs have been sicker than others. He said it can take two to three weeks to heal up completely, but usually, with the appropriate medication, it can clear in just days.

Vets suggest being cautious of dog parks and boarding or grooming dogs right now, especially with puppies and older dogs.

“Young healthy dogs, we haven’t really had an issue with,” said Hennessey. “But I would definitely worry about your older patients that already have cardiopulmonary issues, and are already on medications for that, because obviously if they get pneumonia, it’s gonna be bad, potentially fatal.”

If your dog is fine one moment and then starts coughing a lot, they say it’s best to take them to see a vet right away so they can get antibiotics. 

No dogs have died and it’s not contagious to cats or humans.

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