Friday, November 9, 2007

ASPCA Survey, Bordetella Outbreak.

As part of an effort to shut down puppy mills, the ASPCA is trying to gather as much information as it can about where and how people obtained their dogs by means of an online survey.

With a smidgen of suspicion, but a pernicious compulsion to try and be helpful (comes from hanging around dogs so much I guess), I filled it out. If you feel inclined to do the same, just click here.

I kind of chuckled darkly at the part where I had to say we got Max for free. Well, it's technically true. I suppose. The reality is that there's no such thing as a free dog, but of course the ASPCA knows that.

I had to answer no to a lot of questions--no, we didn't get pedigree papers with him, no we didn't get a guarantee of health (I assume that refers to hip dysplasia, among other things), no we don't know a damned thing about his parents, other than that his mother was a German Shepherd Dog who belonged to a family living near his former owner in Westchester. The father may have been a Rottweiler (nobody who has met Max has ever seen any Rottweiler in him). The mother ended up going to a new family some time after having her litter, and was hit and killed by a car. That's more information than most people we meet have about their dog's parents.

So let it be said, the circumstances under which Max came into the world, and then came to his first home, and eventually came to us would probably not be considered ideal by some persons of high authority in the pet world.

And let it also be said, ideals be damned. We have the best dog in the world. And so do you. But puppy mills SUCK. Go sic 'em, ASPCA.

The other bit of news is that there seems to be an increasingly serious outbreak of Bordetella or Kennel Cough in the New York City area. It may have gotten its start in some Brooklyn kennels, to judge by this New York Post article. Kennel Cough isn't only caused by Bordetella, but that's the most likely vector, which is why dogs are vaccinated for it.

I know some people swear by the one they use, but I'm very much of the opinion that kennels, with rare exceptions, are bad news. There are plenty of boarders and dog sitters who will mind your dog in their home or yours, if friends or family members aren't a viable option. Being cooped up in a kennel with a lot of other dogs of varying states of health is about the best possible way for your dog to catch something nasty. Kennels are sometimes a necessary evil, but whenever they can be avoided, they should be.

That being said, dogs can and do give each other Bordetella and other diseases when meeting outdoors, and particularly at dog runs and offleash areas--just like kids give each other flu bugs (And mumps. And measles. And chicken pox. And etc.) at playgrounds.

The reason I'm bringing this up is that I just heard about a number of dogs who regularly visit the Sir William's Run in Fort Tryon Park coming down with kennel cough. I've heard no reports of Rocky Run Regulars coming down with it, but of course we don't get half the traffic the Fort Tryon run does, and it's possible there are some undiagnosed cases in the early stages right now.

No reason to panic (it's rarely a fatal ailment and healthy dogs can usually fight it off easily), but we should probably consider taking some minor steps, like avoiding the use of a common drinking bowl, at least for the time being. And needless to say, if your dog is coughing a lot more than usual, DON'T TAKE HIM TO THE DOG RUN. Take him to the vet. This seems to be an unusually virulent strain, and you don't want to take any chances. The common cold in humans is nothing to freak about, but it can lead to all kinds of worse problems. It's better not to get sick in the first place. But of course, a well-exercised dog is a healthier dog, and a healthier dog is much less likely to get sick. If we never went out and mingled with other humans, we'd never catch a cold. We'd just go stark raving mad, is all.

Actually, I've still got a bit of a cough from the cold I had the other week. It's not terribly safe for us humans to cluster together in offices either, when you think about it. Maybe we could call it Cubicle Cough. Also known as Bored-etella.


Anonymous said...

A sign outside Washington Park dog run in Union City, NJ (palasade and paterson plank roads) that indicates that there has been an outbreak among dogs visiting the park. Does anyoneknow if this is legit as it's not on city letterhead.

Chris said...

Sorry, don't know--and given that this is an old post, I'm the only person likely to read your comment (I got an automatic notification, as the blog administrator).

I've never heard of any municipality putting up a notice of this type at a dog run. Bordetella is usually non-fatal to dogs, and not at all contagious to humans, so they just aren't that concerned.

"Outbreak" can be a bit of an exaggeration at times. There are always going to be some cases of kennel cough around--we don't say there's an outbreak of the common cold in December.

I'd assume the notice was put up by some concerned individual. Do you know how to contact whoever runs that particular dog park?

Ask around and see if there are, in fact, a lot of dogs who visit that run getting seriously ill.

There is a vaccine for bordetella--administered nasally--not 100% effective, but sometimes a useful precaution. I had Max vaccinated for Bordetella last year, but I'm always wary of too many inoculations, and haven't done it since.

Anyway, if you hear something concrete, I'd like to hear about it.

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