Consider your dog care options carefully amid rise in respiratory illnesses, vet says

CHARLOTTE — As we get closer to the holidays, many are traveling to see their families, leaving their dogs at home in someone else’s care.

Channel 9 spoke with a veterinarian who said with the recent rise in respiratory illnesses, not all pet care options are equally safe.

8-month-old Goldendoodle Rafe walks with pep in his step these days, but Erin Dougherty told Channel 9′s Erika Jackson that wasn’t always the case. She told Jackson he developed a cough last month.

“We ended up taking him to the emergency vet. And after two days there, they were throwing everything they could at him in terms of antibiotics and medications to keep his fever down,” Dougherty said.

She said Rafe developed what the vet called “severe respiratory pneumonia.”

“The vet basically had a candid conversation with us and said, ‘you guys need to prepare for the worst,’” she told Jackson.

Dougherty is grateful the worst didn’t happen. Emergency veterinarian doctor Amanda Slusky said not every dog is as lucky.

“Unfortunately, this is the first time I’ve ever experienced dogs actually passing away from this disease,” Dr. Slusky said.

She said she normally sees a handful of dogs per week with respiratory-related illnesses. But her team at Animal Medical Hospital now treats a handful of dogs per day.

She stressed a respiratory sickness can become serious if left untreated, and said it spreads easily -- through contact with an infected dog, or through airborne droplets.

“Doing your best to avoid kind of high population environment, so that means things like the dog park,” Dr. Slusky said. “As the holidays are coming up, [that] also means boarding, grooming, daycares, things like that.”

Slusky said hiring a pet sitter for the holidays is your best option, but if you have to take your dog to a boarding facility, find a spot that’s taking extra precautions.

A representative for Skiptown in South End sent a message to customers last month, saying its staff is trained to monitor dogs for symptoms. The dog daycare and boarding facility will turn people away or quarantine dogs if they show signs of sickness. Owners are required to show proof of their dog’s vaccines and workers are cleaning frequently, Skiptown said.

“Just know that if you can’t find alternatives, those options are still available,” Slusky said. “Just come with a little more risk than normal.”

Dougherty doesn’t think it’s worth the risk. She plans to keep Rafe away from other dogs for now.

“I would not put him in in any sort of daycare situation at this point, you know, until things settle down,” she said.

She believes it’s a small sacrifice to keep her pup happy and healthy.

Dog owners should keep an eye out for symptoms like a persistent cough, runny nose, fatigue or trouble breathing. Dr. Slusky recommends calling your dog’s vet if you notice symptoms developing or getting worse.

(WATCH BELOW: NC hospitals limit visitors under 12 due to spread of respiratory viruses)