How to reduce the chance that your dog will get kennel cough.

Understanding Kennel Cough in Dogs

Is your dog coughing an alarming harsh or dry cough? Does he experience watery discharge from his eyes or has a slightly reduced appetite? In more severe cases a dog may experience fever, loss of appetite and a moist cough. These are some of the signs of kennel cough in dogs. Usually mild but if left untreated it can lead to a more serious illness. Here we are going to take a close look at kennel cough - its symptoms, treatments and recovery.

What is Kennel Cough?

Kennel cough is a very contagious disease that can affect any dog, of any breed, at any time in their life. In many ways it is a lot like the colds and flues humans pick up from one another and it is usually, but not always, acquired when your pup has been in close quarters with another infected pup. It's known as kennel cough because it's common in shelters and in poorly ventilated boarding kennels.

What Causes Kennel Cough and Are Certain Breeds More at Risk?

Like human flu, kennel cough can be caused by a number of different factors. One of the most common is a bacteria known as Bordetella bronchiseptica, which is why you may also hear kennel cough referred to as bordetella. If your pup is suffering from another virus, including the canine herpes virus or the parainfluenza virus they are more susceptible to the Bordetella virus as well.

A pup basically 'catches' kennel cough when they breathe in air particles that contain the virus. And while the canine larynx is normally lined with a thick mucus that would protect them from infection there are some things that weaken that protection including cold temperatures, exposure to secondhand smoke, being in crowded conditions - like the ones you might find at a boarding kennel or in a shelter - and even just basic stress.

Kennel cough is a canine disease that does not discriminate, any dog might catch it at any time and no one breed is more susceptible to it than another. Very young, and older dogs, whose immune systems are not as strong, are often at a greater risk for developing kennel cough though.

How Can I Tell If My Dog Has Kennel Cough?

Kennel cough manifests itself as a persistent cough, but one that often sounds more like a loud honk. It sounds different to the occasional coughing noise your dog might make, more like a hacking cough, and pups will usually be 'honking' every few minutes.

Other than the cough most pups show very few other symptoms. They rarely lose their appetites and the cough does not usually affect their energy levels. In fact kennel cough is usually more upsetting for their owners rather than the dog themselves as the honking cough usually sounds pretty terrifying. That's the case in milder forms of kennel cough which is most commonly seen.

In more severe cases of kennel cough, dogs may experience any of the following symptoms: a white or yellow discharge from the nose, fever, reduced levels of activity and fever. 

The cough usually begins 5 to 10 days after exposure and can take up to 3 weeks for it to heal.

How Is Kennel Cough Diagnosed?

If you think your pup may have kennel cough the first thing you should do is ensure that he is separated from any other dogs, as it is such an infectious disease. This means that you should call your vet to forewarn them before taking your pup to their office to avoid infecting an entire waiting room full of other dogs.

A basic diagnosis of kennel cough may be made over the phone, or, if you do visit the vet a firmer diagnosis can be made via bacterial cultures and blood tests. On the whole kennel cough is not considered a particularly serious condition, but if it goes on for too long there is a chance that it could turn into pneumonia, a far more serious problem. Don't hesitate to contact your veterinarian if your dog has a persistent cough. 

How is Kennel Cough Treated?

Often dogs do not need any treatment for kennel cough, as they usually recover within a few weeks by themselves, much as would be the case if you caught a bad cold or flu virus. Sometimes a vet may prescribe a course of antibiotics to help speed recovery if the infected pup is in a 'risk category' due to a compromised immune system.

There are some things that you can do as a pet parent to help make your dog's recovery more comfortable and even perhaps reduce the amount they cough. Try to keep him in a warm, humid space - making use of a humidifier often helps ease coughing - and when walking your pup use a harness instead of a collar and leash, as the pressure on the neck it will cause will only serve to irritate the larynx further, leading to more coughing. Aside from home health care ensure your pup rests and has good nutrition.

If your pup suddenly becomes listless, or seems to lose their appetite suddenly call your vet as soon as possible, as these symptoms may indicate a more serious condition. You should also consult your vet if the symptoms of kennel cough persist for more than a month.

Kennel Cough Prevention

There are three forms of vaccinations available that can be useful in reducing the likelihood that a dog will develop kennel cough. One form is given as an injection, but a nasal mist and an oral vaccine are available as well. These vaccines do not guarantee protection, but they may provide a good measure of protection, for example, if your dog will going into a boarding kennel while you are on vacation.

If you are planning to board your dog when choosing a facility don't be afraid to ask what kind of measures are taken to prevent kennel cough. Many very responsible facilities make use of an HVAC system that helps keep the air free of the dust and dander that bacteria love to cling onto.

Finally, as you never do know when a pup might be infected limit toy sharing with other pups, especially in communal settings like a dog park, as this is another way that kennel cough can be easily spread. 

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