Canine Kennel cough (aka tracheobronchitis) is very similar to the human version of the common cold. While very contagious, it can be avoided through being very selective about other dogs your pet is exposed to, as well as proper vaccination. One of the most common causes of Kennel Cough is the bacteria Bordetella bronchiseptica, easily transmitted from pet to pet at daycare centers.
Dogs infected with Bordetella will have at least a temporarily compromised immune system, so they may also become infected with other illnesses that they may or may not have been vaccinated against like canine distemper, canine herpes virus or parainfluenza. The best defense to prevent a serious issue with kennel cough is to keep ALL vaccines up to date (or perform a titer where possible). All dogs should be vaccinated with the bordatella mist, drops or vaccine. Also keeping pups away from environments where there is only recirculated air and large groups of dogs can also help with prevention. Indoor kennel runs, indoor only doggie daycares and shelters can be a hotbed for transmission.
Just like that flu shot we all get every year, vaccines simply cannot protect us from a mutated strain of a virus, neither can the bordatella mist, drops or vaccine fully protect your dog. What to do if you suspect Kennel Cough? It is generally an unmistakable sound when your pup contracts a respiratory illness, but it may or may not be kennel cough. The sound is usually quite obvious in that it is more like a hacking cough and can often mimic a choking sound and typically arises after a three to four day incubation period. It is most likely that kennel cough will not be an occasional cough, but a persistent, dry sound and can be quite forceful. It is often accompanied by sneezing, runny nose or eye discharge. Changes in appetite or energy level are rare; but dogs who are excited or undergoing significant exercise can cough up a white, frothy phlegm.
If you think you pet is sick and he/she has been around other dogs or even their belongings, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to rule out kennel cough and the less prevalent, but more serious, canine influenza strains. Only your veterinarian can accurately diagnose kennel cough. Treatment options vary from cough suppressant syrups to antibiotics. While many dogs recover without treatment, it is important to follow through for treatment not only to speed your furbaby’s recovery and minimize discomfort, but also because he/she will be highly contagious to other dogs. And remember if your pup has not recovered within the expected time frame, schedule a follow-up appointment with your veterinarian. This is the best way to ensure that the case of kennel cough does not progress to more serious respiratory illnesses like pneumonia.
For most, all symptoms will disappear slowly over the course of three weeks, but geriatrics, puppies and furbabies with other illnesses can take up to six weeks to fully recover.
As with most infections, prevention is key. Choose facilities that have plenty of open air along with a sanitary environment and take a long sniff when you walk in. Something that smells clean, generally is. Also keep your dog away from environments where you cannot guarantee other dog’s vaccination statuses, aka public dog parks.
Most kennels will require proof of vaccination; but given that the current vaccine only covers less than half of the known stains of the virus, it is quite possible for your pup to still contract kennel cough and other infections. It is important to remember that even if your pup does contract it, the vaccine will often help to reduce the severity of the symptoms and the duration of the illness. And of course, see your veterinarian immediately if something seems wrong with your pup.
Nicole Goudey-Rigger, Founder of Pets a Go Go®, has 13 years of hands on experience in the dog industry and has been active in the pet sitters international and national association of professional pet-sitters since 2005. She has taken continuing education courses through these organizations as well as and participated in annual forums for bathing certifications (Barkleigh) and CPR/First Aid through the Red Cross.
Pets a Go Go® offers cage-free boarding, doggie daycare, in-home pet sitting, private or group dog walking and running, private or group on- or off-leash hikes as well as expert training and grooming. For more information, please visit the website at petsagogo.com.