Dog nose2As I’ve written about a couple times over the past few days, we seem to have increased canine respiratory disease activity in a few areas of Ontario. The first reports came from Orangeville (incidentally, the town where I worked as a veterinarian in general practice when I first graduated), based on information provided by an astute veterinarian. As we started collecting data, it was pretty clear that a large number of affected dogs were present in the community. In some ways that’s not too surprising, since we occasionally see local outbreaks of canine infectious respiratory disease complex (CIRDC, also commonly called “kennel cough”).

However, reports have since been coming in from veterinarians and dog owners across the province, and my line-listing is getting quite long. The critical question is how many of these cases are simply “normal” disease activity that just isn’t usually reported. CIRDC is an endemic (ever-present) problem, so we expect to see sporadic cases all over the place. I suspect that many of the cases I’m hearing about from lots of different cities are just that, and we are only hearing about them now because we’ve asked for information. Nonetheless, while it’s hard to say anything definitive based on the loose surveillance we are doing (and which is the only type of surveillance that we can really do in situations like this), it seems like there may be genuine outbreaks going on in a few other areas as well.

In addition to Orangeville, areas that I’m particularly concerned about at the moment include:

  • Ottawa
  • Cobourg
  • Port Elgin

I don’t say this to cause panic, but to raise awareness so that people follow some basic precautions (a good idea no matter where you are, but particularly if there might be a local problem).

The particular cause of the disease in dogs in any of these areas is still unclear, and the clusters that have been detected aren’t all necessarily even being caused by the same thing. There are a lot of different viruses and bacteria that cause CIRDC, and testing has been pretty limited to date. We’re concerned about introduction of canine flu into Ontario, so we’re trying to figure out if it might be involved, but there’s no evidence so far that any of the dogs are infected with influenza virus.

This situation shows the importance of surveillance and communication, both during outbreaks and on a regular basis. That’s one of the reasons we developed WormsAndGermsMap. We don’t have CIRDC on their (at least not yet), but the map will hopefully help us understand the normal occurrence of various diseases, which will help us identify and track abnormal situations.