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Respiratory ailments rise by 25% in pet dogs, cats in Mumbai this winter, 11 deaths so far

Inhaling dust while walking pets close to busy traffic junctions over a long period of time is leading to congestion or respiratory infections to develop, said veterinarians.

mumbai Updated: Feb 09, 2018 00:41 IST
Badri Chatterjee
Badri Chatterjee
Hindustan Times
Mumbai,Mumbai news,air pollution
The high pollution levels in the city are affecting our furry friends too. (HT file)

The high pollution levels in the city are affecting our furry friends too.

Data from the Bombay Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (BSPCA) in Parel revealed that between November 1 and January 31, the animal hospital recorded 223 cases of respiratory ailments for dogs and cats, mostly pets, and 11 deaths - six street dogs, three cats and remaining pet dogs - where the post-mortem revealed that it was due to cardio-respiratory failure for all.

Officials said they have been recording 75 such cases per month this winter. The cases were 25% higher than last year, when only three stray dog deaths were recorded and 167 lung-related ailments were administered. “We have witnessed an unusual increase in cases this season. While some minor cases include coughing, sneezing, and breathing troubles, major cases of bronchitis, asthma, chest congestion, upper respiratory infections and other pulmonary disorders have been recorded,” said Lt Col Dr JC Khanna, the chief executive officer in charge, BSPCA.

Inhaling dust while walking pets close to busy traffic junctions over a long period of time is leading to congestion or respiratory infections to develop, he said. “Dust or particulate matter (PM2.5 pollutant) - small pollutant particles that can easily enter the lungs and cause ailments - severely affect dogs and cats as the filtering process in their lungs is not as fast humans,” he said, adding that as far as the deaths are concerned, most of the cases were of street dogs.

“These dogs were brought in when they were already critical, and it is clear that there was continuous exposure to dust. Owing to the increasing number of cases, we have had to accommodate these animals in two extra wards,” said Dr. Khanna. “In such cases, we immediately administer oxygen supply, and ensure they have adequate rest. After carrying out blood and urine tests, we administer drug injections such as derryphilline that help ease congestion in the lungs.”

The Bombay Veterinary College and veterinarians from different parts of the city confirmed that there was a 10-15% increase in such cases over previous years. “The change in weather conditions, unusually cloudy activity, air pollution and increased moisture in the city’s air, are all adding to the sudden rise in such ailments among dogs and cats. As per cases seen by us, pet animals are more vulnerable as natural resistance is less as compared to strays,” said Dr. Rajiv Gaikwad, professor and head of department, veterinary services, Bombay Veterinary College. “Controlling indoor air pollution and minimising exposure outdoors for these animals is necessary.”

Dr. SV Vishwasrao, Bandra-based veterinary surgeon practicing for last 30 years, said other symptoms for respiratory ailments include lethargy, low appetite and fever. “In dogs, the respiratory pathway has receptors and nerves which get stimulated by chemical factors, smoke and aspirated material. In some breeds, it could lead to serious life-threatening conditions. This effect of increase in pollution affects the pediatric pets and older dogs more,” he said, adding that a thorough clinical examination sometimes followed by chest radiographs is helpful. “Acute cough must be treated promptly to prevent it from turning into a chronic one. It’s high time to look at pollution as a life threatening problem which will affect not only humans but each living individual human or animal.”

“While there is hardly any research about this even internationally, the effect is being felt in all major cities across India, and pet owners, animal lovers, need to alert local vets regarding such incidents at the earliest,” said Dr. Trisha D’souza, private veterinarian from Chembur.

ACTIVISTS SPEAK

“The civic body does not allow pet owners to walk their dogs or take their cats to parks and green spaces. As a result they are being forced to breathe polluted air along various traffic junctions in the city, automatically leading to an increase in respiratory troubles,” said Anand Siva, Chembur based animal activist.

WHAT CIVIC BODY HAS TO SAY?

“We have not received any such complaints so far. However, it is a matter of concern if such cases are increasing, and we will direct various NGOs under our department to take step by step action to at least move stray animals away from areas prone to dust,” said Dr. Yogesh Shetye, general director, Deonar abattoir and head of veterinary services, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation.

GUIDELINES FOR PET OWNERS, ANIMAL WELFARE GROUPS TO PROTECT PETS FROM POLLUTION

-Avoid walking pets during early morning and evening hours

-Try walking pets closer to green spaces and away from traffic junctions

-Ensure they drink adequate water

-Ensure air quality at home is clean and there is enough ventilation

-Pet owners may notice cough which ranges from faint moist cough to a honking cough followed by retching. Sometimes a pet may retch after cough, and owners confuse it for vomiting. Inform your local vet about it before it becomes chronic

-Ensure pets have a lot of rest after daily walks

-If the animal is lethargic, has low appetite and fever for more than a week, visit the local veterinarian

-If there is dust, open burning or any other emissions near residential areas, file complaint with the police and keep doors and windows shut

(Source: BSPCA, private veterinarians and Bombay Veterinary College)

First Published: Feb 09, 2018 00:41 IST