At Key Biscayne’s Village Green Dog Park, Cesar Fauve watched over four dogs in his care on Wednesday. He wasn’t worried about the cautionary advisory put out by Miami-Dade County warning pet owners that a new – and possibly deadly – respiratory disease is spreading among dogs in the United States.
“I don’t see any sick dogs around here,” Fauve said. “I think they are pushing it so there is another vaccination for the dogs.”
Fauve isn’t just going by instinct, he is on a Whatsapp chat of 300 dog owners on Key Biscayne and says there is not a single report. He’s correct – so far Miami-Dade County hasn’t seen the new infection.
“While there are no reported cases in our region, we advise dog owners to remain vigilant and take necessary precaution to ensure their pet’s well-being” said Annette Jose, director of Animal Services.
Miami-Dade County issued a “cautionary advisory” so dog owners could be aware of the disease spreading and take proactive steps to ensure their pets health.
“Keeping dogs up to date on vaccinations, including those protecting against respiratory illness, is crucial,” Jose said
Dr. Stephen W. Eastman of Island Veterinary said the symptoms of the new illness appear like kennel cough but unlike that disease the infected canine has a wet cough, a fever and pneumonia. He said it is unknown if the disease is a virus or a bacterium at this stage but it lasts up to eight weeks.
Except for a few worrisome calls, he has seen no dog with such symptoms among his canine clients. He said it might be prudent to avoid the dog park, “especially if it is a puppy or a senior dog.”
However, he also added that healthy, vaccinated dogs have minimal risk for catching the disease through dog park interactions. “You got to let a dog be a dog,” he said.
Dog diseases can also be carried by people, so Eastman recommended residents wash their hands after petting other dogs. “Stay informed and don’t go overboard. Kennel cough has been around a long time. This seems like a stronger version of it,” he said.
Oregon, Colorado and New Hampshire are among the states that have seen cases of the illness, which also does not respond to antibiotics.
The Oregon Department of Agriculture has documented more than 200 cases of the disease since mid-August. Dogs have died, said Kurt Williams, director of the Oregon Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at Oregon State University.
Fauve said the dogs on Key Biscayne for the most are healthy animals but he worries about adopted dogs from shelters bringing in disease to the dog park. The dogs share a water fountain.
“Most of the sick dogs come from the shelter,” Fauve said. “New owners adopt a dog and say, ‘let’s go to the dog park.’”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.