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Local vets seeing fewer cases of canine respiratory ailment

Still a mystery, a canine respiratory ailment that has recently made the rounds in Pagosa Country (as reported in last week’s edition of The SUN) appears to be tailing off as far as the number of reported cases is concerned.

Furthermore, while the jury is still out on the nature of the ailment, state health officials believe that it is a form of influenza that may have mutated from an equine form of the virus.

What is known is that, since dogs with the ailment do not respond to antibiotics, the condition is viral and not bacterial.

While the number of cases reported appears to have dropped off significantly, local veterinarians are recommending that dog owners have their pets vaccinated for influenza.

Dr. Anita Hooten, veterinarian at Hooten Veterinary and Elk Park Veterinary Clinic said that the cases she has seen have not been too severe and that the worst may be over.

“We may have had some dogs that coughed but no fever,” Hooten said. “It may be over here, pretty soon.”

Still, Hooten advised caution as a preventative measure.

“For the time being, it’s best to avoid groomers, dog parks and kennels. At this point in time, it’s best to keep them at home.”

Acknowledging that kenneling cannot be avoided for some people, Hooten advised, “Choose a boarding facility that has an isolation facility. We are recommending that dogs get the canine influenza vaccine.”

That advice was echoed by Dr. Kitzel Farrah, owner of San Juan Veterinary Hospital.

“Although the vaccine doesn’t prevent animals from catching it, it drastically reduces the severity of the symptoms and helps prevent shedding the disease to other animals,” Farrah said.

Farrah also reported that the ailment appears to be moving on.

“We’ve had no one calling about it so far this week, no new cases this week,” she said.

While state health officials are busy identifying what this particular virus might be (the first step towards developing a specific vaccine and more effective treatment), it could take weeks or even months before studies are conclusive.

Until then, dog owners are advised to be on the alert for symptoms (coughing, lethargy, a loss of appetite) and to follow precautions — especially avoiding contact with other dogs, if at all possible.

Still, local vets report that this particular virus may be on its way out of the county.

“Hopefully, we’re on the downside of this,” said Farrah.

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