As we all know, disease can have a significant impact on both ourselves and the greyhounds in our care. One of the biggest challenges that participants can face, is the potential for rapid spread of a disease where greyhounds are housed in a kennel environment. Disease outbreaks in kennels can have a huge impact on your ability to race dogs for a long period of time.
While diseases can often be treated effectively, prevention is always better than cure. There are many steps you can take to try and avoid a disease outbreak and respond if it occurs. You might see these measures being referred to as part of a “biosecurity response”.
- surveillance (the process of monitoring for possible disease outbreaks)
- isolation (physical separation of infected greyhounds from healthy greyhounds)
- quarantine (physically separating greyhounds that have been exposed to a disease and at risk of becoming infectious themselves)
- movement restrictions
- avoiding potentially contaminated areas
- reducing animal contact
- cleaning and disinfecting
- improving greyhound health through treatments and vaccinations.
Participants are involved in all aspects of biosecurity and are particularly important in the surveillance and management of disease outbreaks.
Remember, it is not always possible to tell by looking at an animal whether it has been infected but if you suspect an infectious disease, it is important you contact your veterinarian. You or your veterinarian should also alert GRV, and where appropriate the Victorian Government’s Chief Veterinary Officer to help monitor any potential outbreak.
Some examples of the common signs of canine disease
Gastroenteritis can be caused by many different things, but one example is Canine Coronavirus (not related to or able to be passed to humans). The virus is spread by contact with the faeces of an infected dog. Symptoms in greyhounds appear within a few days and can range from mild to severe and include:
- not eating well
- diarrhoea (soft cow-pat consistency to very watery)
There is some great information in our Medical Fact Sheet: FAQ Infectious Gastroenteritis.
Kennel Cough is spread as droplets in the air from one coughing dog to a healthy dog. Symptoms usually appear about 5-7 days after infection. Symptoms include:
- runny nose
- dry hacking cough
Annual vaccinations can significantly reduce the incidence and/or severity of this disease. There is some great information in our Kennel Cough Fact Sheet.
What can I do to avoid a disease outbreak at my place?
The design of your greyhound operation and the materials you use can play an important role in being able to prevent and manage disease. There is a lot of valuable information on this in the Greyhound Husbandry (Part 1): Facility Design Fact Sheet and the Greyhound Husbandry (Part 2): Sanitation Fact Sheet. These can be found here.
However, maintaining a clean and hygienic kennel environment is critical in preventing disease, as is establishing a regular cleaning and disinfection roster. Being organised and thorough will not only save you time, but will ensure that you minimise the stress on the greyhounds in your care and limit the opportunities to spread disease by either direct (physical contact between dogs) or indirect transmission (spread of disease by humans via contamination).
Dirty and soiled living areas promote diseases and parasites which can quickly lead to sick greyhounds. So, as a preventative measure, you should always clean kennel and yard areas daily. This includes:
- picking up any faeces and old or uneaten food and disposing of it properly so as not to attract flies or vermin that can carry disease;
- cleaning and filling containers with fresh water and food;
- washing away urine;
- removing used or soiled bedding; and
- washing floor surfaces with hospital grade disinfectant or a detergent / disinfectant combination, in warm or hot water where possible.
All items used for feeding (including food preparation areas and utensils) should always be cleaned at the end of each feeding time.
Do not forget to clean bedding, coats and blankets in the washing machine on a regular basis. If these items build up dirt and hair, fleas and diseases can become embedded in the fabric and spread disease. At least once a week, the feed bowls, utensils, water containers and enrichment toys should also be disinfected.
A dishwasher (running at minimum temperature of 65°C) is a good way of disinfecting, using appropriate dishwashing detergent according to the manufacturer’s specifications. You should also wash, scrub and disinfect sleeping areas, kennels and runs, but making sure that the greyhounds are removed from the area first.
A veterinarian can advise on a suitable disinfectant. Once again, make sure you always follow the manufacturer’s instructions as you will be using the products in areas where a greyhound is sniffing, licking and in contact with areas where residue and fumes might be found.
Particular attention should be paid to cleaning (daily), disinfecting (weekly) and scrubbing kennels on a regular basis to minimise the risk of diseases, particularly when the greyhound occupying a kennel changes. The risk of any spread of a disease – which may not always be immediately obvious – can also be minimised by placing greyhounds back in their own kennel after toileting, exercising, training and racing. Moving greyhounds between kennels will lead to more rapid disease spread; unless you have time to completely disinfect the kennel run and bed before each new greyhound is placed in it.
Some tips when cleaning and disinfecting to avoid greyhound stress and exposure to disease risk:
- clean and care for the healthy greyhounds first; work your way through to the sick greyhounds after you have finished with the healthy ones
- always wash your hands, disinfect boots and equipment and change clothes before moving back to the healthy greyhounds;
- care for the young or vulnerable first before moving to the adult and robust greyhounds as they have better immune systems;
- minimise handling of sick greyhounds, while still making sure the greyhound is moved gently away from areas being hosed and cleaned;
- keep sick greyhounds separate from others and place them directly into a clean kennel or yard for some exercise;
- use the same familiar staff and clean and scrub around the same time of the day;
- provide separate equipment like mops, pooper scoopers and buckets for each area such as the main housing area, isolation or quarantine areas;
- try and use items such as disposable gloves, disinfectant foot baths, and separate overalls when working with the sick greyhounds.
Remember to always be thinking about where you are putting your hands and the greyhounds you are dealing with. Something as simple as touching the food bowl of a sick greyhound and then feeding and moving the bowl of a healthy greyhound can accidentally pass on a disease.
Hygiene is not just about cleaning and disinfection. Storage and waste disposal are also an important part of day to day routines to keep greyhounds healthy. Food needs to be stored in such a way that it does not spoil, and pests such as mice cannot access it. Pests can transmit diseases and it is always a good idea to have a pest management program in place.
Always be on the lookout for something that is not normal in your greyhounds. Daily observations by yourself or the team will be critical to picking up a potentially contagious infection and preventing spread. Some diseases only become evident after an initial ‘incubation period’ but being on the front line means you may well be the first to notice that something is not right. Pay particular attention to vulnerable groups such as puppies, whelping females or older or injured dogs.
If something is not normal:
- Separate out the greyhound that is showing signs of disease, ideally into a dedicated isolation area and consider isolating the greyhounds that have been living around them from coming into contact with other greyhounds on the property!
- Immediately call a veterinarian!
Preventing disease on your property means that you also need to think about how you plan for disease risks that might come from outside your property. It is important to have a plan in place for when new greyhounds arrive on your property. Most new greyhounds should be housed separately for at least 10 days and observed for any signs of diseases before being introduced to the main kennel block.
What do I do if there is a disease outbreak?
Even with the best care and prevention, it is still possible for an unexpected disease outbreak to occur. It may be that dogs or people that have travelled off the property you work at have been exposed to disease, or it may be a new disease outbreak in your area. Excellent hygiene, early detection of disease and immediate quarantine of affected greyhounds will go a long way to preventing further the spread of disease.
Keep these practices going and if necessary, step up your cleaning and disinfection regimes to daily, especially where the disease is transmitted via faeces. Control where your greyhounds move on your property, and importantly ensure all the people interacting with the greyhounds and each other, including those coming from outside the property, follow good hygiene practices and movement. Avoid the unnecessary movement of unwell greyhounds off your property and don’t forget to clean equipment and vehicles going on and off the property.
Even the simple things such as washing hands after handling greyhounds from other properties, or asking visitors to dip their shoes in hospital grade disinfectant before walking around your greyhounds, kennels will go a long way to keeping your people and your greyhounds healthy. For more information on biosecurity you can find useful information in the Biosecurity Fact Sheet here.