Study Aims to Keep Intermingling Dogs Healthy

A team of veterinary researchers launches a 20-month study to provide dog owners with practical recommendations for reducing the risk of disease transmission.

Going out in public puts dogs in contact with other canines and any diseases they carry.

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Dog parks, agility competitions and breed shows are more than just gathering spots for canines. They’re also places where infectious diseases such as kennel cough and distemper can easily spread.

A team of veterinary researchers in July will launch a 20-month study with the AKC Canine Health Foundation and the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals in an effort to provide dog owners with practical recommendations for reducing the risk of disease transmission.

“Whether participating in various dog sports, attending training classes or simply visiting the local dog park, mitigating the risk of infectious disease transmission should be of concern to all responsible dog owners whose dogs are regularly in contact with other dogs,” said Eddie Dziuk, chief operating officer of the Columbia, Mo.-based Orthopedic Foundation for Animals.

Ohio State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine is taking the lead on the study, which is funded by an $11,942 grant from the Orthopedic Foundation. The principal researcher is Jason Stull, VMD, MPVM, Ph.D., Dipl. ACVPM, an assistant professor in the department of veterinary preventive medicine.

Also involved are disease specialists Armando Hoet, DVM, Ph.D., Dipl. ACVPM; Jeanette O’Quin, DVM, MPH; and Mary Jo Burkhard, DVM, Ph.D., Dipl. ACVP.

The team will evaluate peer-reviewed studies and focus on the infection rates and transmission of canine diseases. Rather than write another research paper for academia, they will “produce up-to-date recommendations that will have real-world implications,” said the Canine Health Foundation’s chief scientific officer, Shila Nordone, MS, Ph.D.

In the end, dog owners and event organizers should receive “information and an understanding of how to keep their dogs healthy in locations where disease spread is more likely,” according to the Canine Health Foundation. A website also is planned.

“The end result will be safer, healthier environments for our dogs through education, prevention and guidelines of best practices to prevent the outbreak of infectious disease,” Dziuk said.

The Banfield Pet Hospital chain reported in its latest State of Pet Health Report that 2 percent of all dogs seen by the company’s veterinarians in 2013 had kennel cough, a highly contagious respiratory infection. The highest rates of kennel cough were in Florida, Kentucky and Utah.

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