Veterinarians are warning local dog owners to keep an eye on their pets during an outbreak of kennel cough.

Vets in Metro Vancouver and Fraser Valley told CTV News that they've seen an alarming increase in cases recently.

Dr. Adrian Walton said his animal hospital is seeing approximately 16 infected dogs a day.

"I've never had that many cases in such a short period of time," he said Tuesday.

Although there is a vaccine, Walton said the strain he's seen lately appears to be resistant, and even those vaccinated are getting sick.

"We think this is either not the normal kennel cough – in other words there's been some genetic shift – or we're dealing with something completely different," he said.

Kennel cough is a highly contagious respiratory disease known to vets as canine infectious tracheobronchitis. It is also known as Bordetella, named after a type of bacteria that can cause the cough.

The most noticeable symptom of kennel cough is the cough itself, which is forceful and sometimes creates a honking or a hacking noise.

Other symptoms include:

  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Eye discharge

Brachycephalic dogs with short muzzles, like bulldogs, pugs and Boston terriers, are the most at risk of catching the cough.

Dogs that have the disease should be kept away from other animals. Owners should contact their vet, who may prescribe medication if needed.

Due to the spike, some clinics are examining dogs with coughs outside to avoid contaminating other patients.

Vets should also be notified if the dog is breathing rapidly, listless or not eating.

Like a human cold, most cases are not serious, and most dogs recover without treatment. It can last between three days and six weeks.

Pet owners who are concerned about the spike can also contact their vets to obtain a Bordetella vaccine.

With a report from CTV Vancouver's St John Alexander