There's a virus making its rounds among Grand Falls-Windsor's furry, four-legged residents.
A highly-contagious canine upper respiratory illness — kennel cough — has been afflicting dogs in Exploits Valley and beyond as a result of a recent outbreak.
Grand Falls-Windsor Dog Park announced earlier this week it was closing its gates until Oct. 21 to try and help contain the spread of the illness. A post on the group's Facebook page said that live strains of the virus can survive up to two weeks on surfaces, infecting other animals.
"Kennel cough is highly contagious and will spread in areas where dogs come into contact with each other. The dog park is only one such place, but we feel it is our responsibility to help contain the illness as much as we can," the post read.
According to local vet Dr. Amanda Stuckey, kennel cough is caused by the canine parainfluenza virus and the bacteria bordetella bronchiseptica.
It gets its name due to ease at which it travels between dogs in closed quarters.
She said she's been made aware of around 25 cases in Grand Falls-Windsor, and said there are also cases in Corner Brook and Gander.
According to Stuckey, kennel cough is spread from dog to dog and is contracted through the air and by coming into contacted with infected surfaces. She said vaccinated dogs can still catch kennel cough, although it's usually not as severe as in unvaccinated pets.
"Basically, we start seeing outbreaks in situations where there's larger groups of dogs, so I'm sure the dog park, which has . . . become more popular in the last year, can become almost like a breeding ground for it.," she told the Advertiser.
Stuckey said though kennel cough can be found any time of the year, it's often more common in the Fall.
Symptoms of kennel cough include what Stuckey described as a dry, hacking cough that can sound like the animal is trying to clear its throat. She said many animals often cough up a foamy white liquid many owners mistake for vomit.
Though it can be a scary ordeal for dog owners, Stuckey said kennel cough is rarely serious and, like the human cold, will often clear within a week without medical intervention. If the cough seems severe and seems to be making the animal extremely uncomfortable, a vet may be able to prescribe something to help.
Stuckey said in rare cases, kennel cough can progress to more serious pneumonia, and owners should look out for more severe signs.
"If they start to see symptoms like thick nasal discharge, severe lethargy, or if the animal is not eating for more than 24 hours . . . go see the vet," she said. "But most of the time it's not anything fatal, and there are little things they can do at home to help alleviate some of the symptoms"
Stuckey said aside from plenty of rest, owners can help their pet by feeding soft food, giving the dog a little bit of honey every few hours, and placing the dog in a steamy bathroom.
As with any contagious virus, Stuckey said it's important for people to keep their dog's illness contained so as not to infect other animals.
"If your animal is coughing, it should be confined to your own premises," she said. "So don't take them to the dog parks or even out for walks around the community, and it's a good idea to avoid places like the groomers or boarding facilities."
Stuckey said people should wait three or four days after their dog stops showing any symptoms before allowing it to socialize with other animals.