What is canine kennel cough? The name kennel cough is a broad term that includes any canine infectious respiratory conditions that result in your dog having a hacking cough. That’s the ‘cough’ part. The ‘kennel’ title of the phrase was given because it is common to situations where many dogs are kept together in close quarters. Boarding or breeding kennels, pet shops, animal shelters, pet groomers, canine obedience schools, even dog shows or animal hospitals, are all potentially contagious places for a dog to contract the disease. Being aware of kennel cough symptoms in dogs is essential to protecting your pet’s health.
Kennel cough is also known as canine infectious tracheobronchitis. Infectious simply means contagious or transmissible. Tracheobronchitis refers to an infection which causes inflammation in the trachea (windpipe) and bronchial airways, the main passageway into the lungs.
The good news is that kennel cough can be easily treated and prevented. It is usually only dangerous in geriatric dogs, very young puppies, or dogs with a compromised immune system.
What Causes Kennel Cough?
Most human diseases are caused by either bacterial infections or viral infections. Canine kennel cough is most often caused by a combination of both a bacteria and a virus which affect the dog simultaneously.
The most common bacterial culprit of kennel cough is called Bordetella Bronchiseptica, which is why you may hear kennel cough sometimes referred to as Bordetella. In most cases, kennel cough is caused by a combination of both the Bordetella Bronchispetica bacterium and other infectious viruses, such as Canine Adenovirus or Canine Parainfluenza.
When such viruses invade the dog’s body, they quickly go to work attacking the cells in the respiratory tract and at the same time weaken the dog’s the immune system. This makes the dog more susceptible to the Bordetella bacteria.
How Does My Dog Catch Kennel Cough?
It’s important for pet parents to realize that your dog doesn’t need to spend time at a boarding kennel in order to contract kennel cough. It is an airborne disease; So when an infected dog coughs, sneezes, or even barks, thousands of microscopic viral and bacterial contaminants are released into the air. These many microorganisms can remain viable for up to two weeks by traveling on tiny dust particles through the environment, waiting for another canine host to inhale and harbour them. Once they infect that host, the dog’s respiratory system comes under attack.
Any healthy dog is also at risk for kennel cough if he or she comes into contact with objects that have been contaminated by an infected dog. For instance, if a dog with a case of this respiratory ailment hikes his leg on a tree and your dog comes snuffling around that enticing tree within 48 hours, chances are your dog will become infected and come down with kennel cough.
Most pet lovers know that when one dog encounters another, their strong sense of smell takes over. Sniffing nose to nose, nose to butt, or any direct contact with an infected dog is practically a guarantee that your pet will contract the kennel cough ‘bug.’ So your dog can merely have brief contact with an infected dog on an outdoor walk, at the dog park, or at doggie daycare to be at risk for catching the disease.
Kennel Cough Symptoms in Dogs
If a dog is exposed to kennel cough, symptoms will usually begin to develop within 3 to 10 days after exposure. Most dogs will recover from kennel cough within a month, but very young or very old dogs may take up to 6 weeks to make a full recovery.
Kennel cough symptoms in dogs include:
- The classic symptom of kennel cough is a dry hacking goose-honk-like cough. Although the disease is not considered a serious one in an otherwise healthy dog, this symptom alone can make the pet (and pet parent) quite miserable.
- An infected animal will often have a clear nasal discharge and watery eyes. Some sneezing may occur.
- Some dogs will develop a low grade fever. This indicates that it’s a more severe form of the disease and his canine body is hard at work fighting off the infection.
- Lethargy and a decreased appetite are two other symptoms of kennel cough, but not all dogs exhibit these symptoms. Some dogs will just have a persistent and forceful honking cough that doesn’t affect their energy level or appetite.
Treatment and Prevention
If you suspect that your dog has contracted kennel cough, make an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible. This is for your own dog’s sake as well as other dogs in the neighborhood or surrounding area.
Most healthy dogs can recover from kennel cough on their own after the disease has run its course; But the vet will likely recommend a full week of complete rest, as well as prescribe a round or two of antibiotics to prevent a secondary infection. The good doctor may also dispense a mild cough suppressant to ease the symptoms for your pet and make him more comfortable as he recovers. In the meantime, keep your dog away from all other dogs.
PREVENTION IS KEY IN CONTROLLING THIS DISEASE ~ As with most things in life, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Speaking as a veterinary technician of 30+ years, I have seen many a dog recover from a case of kennel cough and I can definitely say that taking measures to prevent kennel cough in your dog is vastly preferable to you and your pet having to go through the symptoms and treatment of the disease.
To prevent kennel cough, it is necessary that your dog be up to date on vaccinations that protect him against the different causes of upper respiratory infections. The canine DA2PP vaccine protects against canine distemper, canine adenovirus type 2, canine parvovirus, and canine parainfluenza.
There is also a Bordetella intranasal vaccine available for your dog which is actually a liquid sprayed directly into the dog’s nostrils. This is much faster acting and more protective for the pet since it’s being administered at the site of a potential kennel cough infection ~ your dog’s nose.
If your dog is going to be groomed or boarded at a kennel while you are away or participating in a dog show, or obedience training, or put into any situation where a number of dogs will be in close quarters together, these vaccinations are essential. Indeed, most or all of such places will require proof of these vaccines. Consult with your veterinarian about follow-up vaccinations for puppies or senior dogs.
Hopefully you are a bit more educated about kennel cough after reading this article. It’s treatable, preventable, very contagious among canines, and the disease itself is no fun at all for your dog (or for you, the pet parent).
It’s highly transmissible in places where large numbers of dogs are kept in close range, but your pet can just as easily pick in up from an infected dog at the dog park. It’s caused by bacteria or virus, or both, and these microorganisms attack the dog’s respiratory tract while simultaneously weakening the canine immune system.
Kennel cough can be spread by direct contact with an infected dog, but it’s also an airborne disease. The infective agents can also be transmitted by your dog coming into contact with contaminated objects.
The classic symptom of this disease is a hacking goose-honk cough, sometimes accompanied by sneezing and runny nose and eyes. Some dogs become lethargic and have a diminished appetite, some do not.
Preventing kennel cough is highly preferable to your dog suffering through a spell of it; But if your dog should contract the disease, you should consult your veterinarian. He or she will recommend complete rest and usually prescribe antibiotics along with a mild cough medicine.
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