By Emily Stifler Managing Editor

Three of Big Sky’s avalanche dogs have had kennel cough this winter, as have a handful of other canines in town.

Also known as Infectious Canine Tracheobronchitis, kennel cough is an inflammation of the tonsils, and causes dogs to cough, gag and often retch up spit. Caused by both virus and bacteria, it’s highly contagious, but rarely fatal, says Dr. Sid Gustafson with the Veterinary Clinic of Big Sky.

He’s seen three or four cases in the last few weeks, something he says is not uncommon this time of year.

“We see it on a fairly regular basis, off and on, especially during boarding season, which just occurred over the holidays… This is the most prevalent disease in Big Sky and Bozeman in dogs.”

If a dog is alert and only has minor symptoms alongside the cough, many vets will administer an anti-inflammatory agent and let the disease run its course. If symptoms progress, however, kennel cough can cause pneumonia, fever, lethargy and even death. Severe cases are treated with antibiotics. Puppies, older dogs and pregnant bitches can suffer the worst complications.

Gustafson recommends vaccination, depending on a dog’s age, lifestyle and contact with other dogs.