Rotorua veterinarians are seeing an increasing number of dogs suffering kennel cough, with some owners paying hundreds of dollars to import drugs to treat their pets.
Rotorua Vet Club veterinarian Stacey Tremain said that within a three-week period they had seen and treated 36 dogs with the disease. Kennel cough is a dry, hacking cough with the animal gagging, giving the appearance it is choking.
If untreated the disease can lead to pneumonia. It is a highly contagious disease and while it mainly affects dogs, cats could also get it.
Kennel cough is spread through close contact with other infected or carrier dogs.
It could also be picked up in places infected dogs have been including on posts or dog parks. Dogs don't even need to have contact with another dog.
Mr Tremain said the clinic normally saw about one or two cases each month but in recent weeks there had been an influx.
"It's such a concern we are telling every client who comes in about the problem."
In 90 per cent of cases, the dog had a dry hacking cough and owners believed it had swallowed a bone and was choking on it, not realising the animal had the disease, Mr Tremain said.
There are five types of kennel cough - one is bacterial the others viral.
There was very little to treat the animal with in viral cases.
Some owners were paying $1000 to import anti-viral drugs from Europe to treat their beloved pets with, he said.
"Twice we have been asked to get the anti-viral."
He advises owners to have their dogs vaccinated against the bacterial form of the disease. They can still contract viral forms of the illness.
"If they are vaccinated and they do get kennel cough it prevents them from getting the most severe form of the disease. They don't get it anywhere near as bad and usually don't get pneumonia if they are vaccinated."
If your dog does contract kennel cough, it needs to be treated and all bedding washed thoroughly, Mr Tremain said.
Rotorua's SPCA staff have also been dealing with dogs at the animal shelter with the disease.
Adoptions assistant Alex Jones said in recent weeks, 10 dogs looking for homes had been treated for kennel cough.