What is Kennel Cough? Is Your Dog Safe?

While it's common for humans to suffer from bouts of the cold or flu throughout the year, particularly in the fall and winter, canines can also be susceptible to viral illnesses that can leave them feeling lethargic.

One of these illnesses is Canine Infectious Tracheobronchitis, more commonly referred to as kennel cough. While it may be worrisome to dog owners, kennel cough is a fairly common and treatable illness. Dogs that are frequently boarded or are often around other dogs may be more likely to come down with a case of kennel cough. The good news is that, with the proper education, owners can help their dogs through this illness without any lasting negative effects. Read on to find out how to detect kennel cough symptoms and how this illness can be treated.

What is Kennel Cough?

Kennel cough is an illness that affects the respiratory tract of dogs. It is quite contagious and is commonly found in dogs that are frequently around other dogs at places like boarding facilities, doggy daycare, parks that specifically cater to canines, dog training classes, and pedigree dog shows.

Kennel cough is spread the same way as the cold and flu is in humans. When infectious droplets travel through the air from a sick dog, they can be inhaled by healthy dogs and cause them to become infected. Shared surfaces like water and food bowls, toys, leashes, and bedding can also become contaminated. When a healthy dog comes into contact with these droplets, they can also become sick.

Symptoms of kennel cough include:

  • a loud, barking cough
  • a runny or wet nose
  • sneezing or sniffling
  • fever
  • not acting normal (i.e. lethargic, loss of appetite)

Causes of Kennel Cough

Kennel cough is most commonly caused by the bacterium known as Bordetella bronchiseptica, although there are several other agents that can cause it. Other possible causes include:

  • canine parainfluenza virus
  • canine distemper virus
  • canine respiratory coronavirus
  • canine herpes virus
  • canine reovirus

Much like the flu in humans, there is a vaccine that helps prevent kennel cough caused by a certain type of bacterium- bordetella. While this is the most common cause of kennel cough, the vaccine does not provide full protection against kennel cough because of the multiple viruses that can cause it. The vaccine is still the best option at preventing kennel cough so it's recommended that dogs that are around a large number of dogs on a regular basis, such as in a boarding facility or daycare, should receive the vaccine every 6-12 months.

The vaccine is most commonly offered as an injection but can also be given by mouth or nose. The first time a dog receives the vaccine, they will be given two doses spaced out two to four weeks apart. Some boarding places and doggy daycares require that dogs be fully vaccinated before they can enter their facility.

Treatment of Kennel Cough

When an otherwise healthy canine catches kennel cough it is usually treatable with plenty of rest and a little extra TLC. Dogs with compromised immune systems or dogs younger than six months are more likely to have a more severe infection and may require additional treatment.

Treatment for a severe illness may include oral antibiotics, medication to treat the cough, and in some cases a vaporizer. Additionally, items that may irritate the trachea like a dog collar should not be used until the cough is gone completely.

Keeping a sick dog away from other healthy animals can help prevent the spread of kennel cough. Separate food and water bowls, bedding, toys, and other communal items should not be shared until the dog has recovered from their illness. Frequent hand washing and washing of contaminated surfaces can also prevent the spread of kennel cough.

When caught early enough, kennel cough is usually a mild illness that can be treated with some common medications and lots of snuggles. Consulting with a veterinarian on how best to treat kennel cough is also a good idea.

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