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Caution urged for local dog owners

A canine respiratory ailment that has plagued the Durango area and (by some reports) reached “epidemic” proportions is beginning to make its way through the dog population in Pagosa Country.

While not fatal, the ailment can lead to further complications — most notably, pneumonia — and dog owners are advised to follow a few simple precautions to ensure the health and well being of their pet.

Reported the past few weeks by Durango area veterinarians, the ailment remains a mystery and, while resembling bordatella (a similar canine respiratory ailment), dogs are not responding to antibiotic or cough suppressant treatments normally prescribed by vets.

According to veterinarian Dr. Kitzel Farrah, owner of San Juan Veterinary Hospital, “We’ve started to see some cases here in the last few days.”

Farrah said that the ailment appears to be highly infectious, just as Durango area veterinarians have reported.

The ailment presents with a hacking cough as well as other symptoms.

“If any dogs are coughing, have a runny discharge from the nose or eyes, are lethargic and have a poor appetite, they should be seen immediately,” Farrah said.

Farrah said that, for the time being, “Owners should not be taking their dogs to a lot of places, especially where they’d be around other dogs. Keep them home.

“I know one of their hot spots was the dog park,” Farrah said, regarding the outbreak in Durango. “I know I take my dogs there, but I won’t be doing that for awhile. It’s highly contagious.”

Farrah also advised against kenneling, saying, “If you can avoid boarding your dogs at all, keep your pet away, just until this calms down.”

Farrah added, “While the morbidity rate is high, that is, the incidence of this, the mortality rate is thankfully low. Hopefully, it will run its course and dogs will build up an immunity from this.”

Farrah also advised that dog owners should have their pet’s vaccinations up to date, saying, “It’s a good idea to have them vaccinated against anything they can be vaccinated against, just so there’s no danger of secondary infections.”

While Farrah’s hospital has seen an increasing number of cases of the mystery ailment, Susan Steen at the Elk Park Animal Hospital said on Tuesday that, “We’ve just seen a few cases and it’s not bad. It appears to have pretty much run its course.”

Wendy Stacey at the Aspen Tree Veterinary Clinic said that, “We haven’t seen any cases since the end of last week and it appears to be tapering off.”

Likewise, the Humane Society of Pagosa Springs reported no cases at their shelter, but said that local kennels and veterinarians had been in contact to make them aware of the ailment and what should be done should any cases arise.

In fact, vigilance was Farrah’s primary advice against the ailment.

“It’s better to take some mild precautions,” she said, “and just keep paying attention.”

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