Kennel Cough

Sounds bad doesn’t it? Gives you visions of cold, damp and dirty kennels, rusty wire cages and poor, sad sick dogs shivering while Sarah McLachan sings “In the Arms of an Angel.” Well, we don’t have any of that at Dogs Unleashed. What we do have are dogs, and lots of them. Dogs who all play in groups together, slobber on each other, lick each other’s faces, and drink from the same water bowls. And guess what that can spread…the common cold of canines: Kennel Cough.

That’s right, just like when you go to work, ride a bus, fly on an airplane or send your human child to school with their friends, someone is going to catch the common cold when its going around. Even though our facilities are constantly and meticulously cleaned and sanitized, inside and out, with 80% alcohol solution, we can’t stop your dog from slobbering on or licking another dog in the mouth. (after all they are dogs…unleashed!) Fortunately, this is no global pandemic, but it is annoying and can become serious if not treated correctly.

What Is Kennel Cough?

Kennel Cough (also known as canine infectious tracheobronchitis) is a highly contagious respiratory disease. Dogs commonly contract kennel cough at any place where large amounts of canines congregate, such as boarding and daycare facilities, dog parks, training groups, and dog shows. Dogs can spread it to one another through airborne droplets, direct contact (e.g., touching noses), or contaminated surfaces (including water/food bowls). It’s highly treatable in most dogs but can be more severe in puppies younger than six months of age and immunocompromised dogs.

What are the Symptoms of Kennel Cough?

If your dog is affected with kennel cough, you may notice one or more of the following symptoms:

  • a strong cough, often with a “honking” sound – this is the most obvious symptom
  • runny nose
  • sneezing
  • lethargy
  • loss of appetite
  • low fever

Although kennel cough is easily treatable in healthy dogs, Kevin Fitzgerald, DVM, a columnist for AKC Family Dog, explains that it’s important to report a coughing symptom to your veterinarian because it could be a sign of a more serious disease.

“The canine distemper virus and canine influenza virus both start off with symptoms nearly identical to kennel cough,” he said. Other conditions that can cause coughing include a collapsing trachea, bronchitis, asthma, and even heart disease.

How Is Kennel Cough Treated?

Typically, mild cases of kennel cough are treated with a week or two of rest, but a veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics to prevent a secondary infection and cough medication to ease the symptoms.

“Nebulizers and vaporizers utilizing inhaled antibiotics or bronchodilators have been reported to be beneficial but are usually not prescribed,” Dr. Fitzgerald said. Speak to your veterinarian for treatment recommendations. Also, it’s helpful for owners to use a harness rather than a collar to walk a dog with kennel cough because irritation of the tracheal can aggravate the cough and possibly even cause damage to the trachea. If you have a household with multiple pets and one shows signs of a cough, chances are all dogs in the home have been exposed.

Can Kennel Cough Be Prevented?

A vaccine is available for the bordetella bacterium, which is the most common agent to cause kennel cough. Dogs who are frequently boarded, visit doggie day care, compete in canine sports, or otherwise are exposed to large groups of dogs may benefit from the vaccine, and many training, boarding, and daycare facilities require proof of vaccination. The vaccine is available in oral, intranasal, and injectable forms, and depending on the form, it is usually initially given in two doses two to four weeks apart, followed by a booster every six months to a year.

Although most cases of kennel cough are caused by bordetella, some are caused by other agents, including the bacteria bordetella bronchiseptica, canine adenovirus type 2, canine parainfluenza virus, canine respiratory coronavirus, and mycoplasmas, so the vaccine may not prevent your dog from catching the disease.

If you notice your pet coughing or if you plan to introduce your dog to large groups of animals, speak with your veterinarian.

Dog Masks are Now Mandatory

Not really, I’m kidding. There’s no way that would work with dogs in group.  What you should do though is keep your dog home if you see symptoms and let us know here at Dogs Unleashed if you do so we don’t worry about your pup.  Then bring them back as soon as their cleared by your vet because they’ll be going stir crazy after their quarantine. Something we can all sympathize with. 

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