Dozens more dog owners have written about their dogs’ poor health in the Hundasamfélagið group on Facebook, as well as advice passed on from vets to keep infected dogs at home and away from other dogs.
Kennel cough is a potentially serious respiratory disease that exists in both bacterial and viral forms. As the name suggests, coughing is the most common symptom, but others include discharge from the nose and eyes, and the loss of energy or appetite, according to vet Þóra Jónasdóttir from MAST (the food and veterinary authority).
“Most dogs seem to go through this illness without getting very ill and get better in a week to ten days. Individual dogs can become sicker and there has sometimes been worse infection from other bacteria that have used the opportunity when the immune system is not at its best,” Þóra explains.
Keep dogs out in the car
In these more severe cases, dogs can develop pneumonia-like symptoms, such as fever and breathing difficulties. Þóra says these dogs should be seen by a vet.
“It is very important to remember that if people need to go to the vet with these dogs, it is really important to call ahead, book an appointment and keep the dog in the car before going to sign in at reception. One should absolutely not go in and maybe infect loads of other dogs. It seems to be extremely infectious and can be transmitted in the air through coughs or sneezes,” Þóra warns.
Kennel cough is normal at this time of year, but this year’s outbreak is unusually widespread.
Dog owners are advised to avoid the most popular dog walking spots in the city for the time being.
"We have set up, in collaboration with the University of Iceland Keldur laboratories, a research project to try and find out what could be causing these infectious respiratory symptoms. Several vets have sent in samples to see whether it could be the COVID-19 virus but it’s all been negative so far,” Þóra adds. Dogs are not considered at high risk from the coronavirus, though they can carry it.
Basic vaccination for dogs includes protection from the common forms of viral kennel cough. The current outbreak appears to be affecting vaccinated and non-vaccinated dogs equally—indicating it is a different type of bacteria or virus at work.
Back in 2017, a sneezing bug hit both dogs and cats in Iceland and the precise cause of the illness was never found, despite analysis of many samples. Research this time is going to be even more comprehensive, Þóra promises.