Common Dog Illnesses: Kennel Cough

You’ve probably heard the term “kennel cough” before and chalked it up to a disease that dogs get only when they’re boarded with other dogs. While this is true to some extent, it’s not the only way your dog can be exposed to the disease. 

Kennel cough is a common respiratory disease that is highly contagious to other dogs. Your dog can be infected by simply breathing the same air as a sick canine.  It can be spread through the air, direct contact (such as touching noses), or by using the same toys, food or water bowl as a dog with the disease. It is highly treatable, but can be dangerous in puppies or dogs with compromised immune systems. 

It can be caused by multiple things, but the most common culprit is the bacterium Bordetella bronchiseptica m. This is why kennel cough is also called Bordetella. 

The symptoms of kennel cough are as follows: 

  • A strong cough
  • Runny nose or sneezing
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Low fever

These symptoms are similar to many dog illnesses. Talk with your vet to make sure your dog doesn’t have something more serious, such as the flu or canine distemper virus. 

There are also a number of factors that put your dog at risk for catching kennel cough. Like the name implies, being boarded in a kennel is one of them. Exposure to numerous dogs increases the risk of infection, as does exposure to cold temperatures, dust or cigarette smoke or stress caused by travelling. 

What Does a Coughing Dog Sound Like?

A dog’s cough is not much different than a humans, though the sound may startle you at first. A dog can also make sounds that are similar to coughing, but are not a cough. Such sounds include reverse sneezing (rapid long inhales while standing still), chiking, retching, or respiratory distress. 

To hear what kennel cough sounds like, see Veterinary Partner’s video

Remember that the video is for educational purposes only and not for you to self diagnose your dog. Only a vet can tell if it is kennel cough or something more serious, if it is anything at all. 

Treating Kennel Cough

Kennel Cough is extremely treatable. Because it is so contagious, you will want to keep your dog away from your other pets or from other dogs.

A vet can diagnose if the kennel cough is uncomplicated and will go away without treatment, or if it is complicated enough to develop into pneumonia. If the cough is not accompanied by a fever or loss of appetite, chances are that your dog will be fine with rest. 

While most cases are uncomplicated, some can progress into pneumonia, which is potentially life-threatening. Because of this possibility, antibiotics are usually prescribed to get your dog healthier faster. 

In most cases, the illness will resolve itself without any medication in about three weeks. Older dogs and canines with other medical problems can take up to six weeks to fully recover.

Well-humidified areas and using a harness instead of a collar can help minimize coughing. 

Preventing Kennel Cough

The best way to prevent kennel cough is to keep your dog away from other dogs at all times, which isn’t realistic. Because it is so contagious, if you have multiple dogs, chances are that your other canines will be infected as well, even if you keep them separated. 

You can also get your dog vaccinated, especially if they are going to be boarded in the near future or if they are frequently boarded.

Kennel Cough Vaccines

Many boarding places require your dog to be vaccinated before they agree to board them. 

There are three forms of kennel cough vaccines: a nasal mist, oral, or injections. Like all vaccinations, they help reduce the risk of your dog getting kennel cough, but are not guaranteed to prevent your dog from getting sick. Also, it is important to realize that neither form of the kennel cough vaccination will treat active infections.

If you choose to allow your vet to give your dog a nasal mist spray or oral medication, they are typically administered once a year. Vets recommend you give high-risk dogs these types of vaccines once every six months. Nasal sprays and oral medications tend to work faster than injections as well. 

Injections are typically for more aggressive dogs, who won’t let vets near their mouth or nose. Some dogs experience a small lump under the skin at the injection site, which should heal on its own, according to Veterinary Partner.

Acoma Animal Clinic in Tucson can administer these vaccines for your dog to keep them happy and healthy, even when they’re boarded. Contact them today!

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