Kennel Cough, two words that no Veterinarian or dog owner wants to hear. Unfortunately, it is a common thing that we likely all will have to deal with at one point or another so it's best that we help educate our pet parents on the best ways to prevent and treat it.
What is it? Kennel cough, also known as Bordetella or contagious tracheobronchitis, is an upper respiratory infection caused by a co-infection of a virus and bacteria. It causes the airways (trachea & bronchi) to become inflamed making for a potentially stuffed-up and coughing pup. It is also highly contagious, especially among unvaccinated dogs, senior dogs and puppies.
Dogs can contract kennel cough from another dog's infected bodily secretions some examples include:
Drinking from the same water bowl.
Drool/Saliva from playing or licking each other.
It can also be contracted simply from microscopic droplets coughed into the air by an infected dog and then breathed in by another dog (just like humans transmit the common cold or the flu to each other).
At times the infection can go undetected for days, many owners bring their dogs to dog parks and day cares while the pooch is spreading the illness, not because they are careless, but because they are simply unaware. By the time it is noticed that a dog is coughing, he might have been a silent carrier for days and already infected many of his playmates.
What are the Symptoms? They can be all or some of the following:
- Coughing (quiet hardly noticeable coughing / loud barky type coughs) - Hacking or honking (sometimes followed up with them throwing up white foamy liquid or their food) - Sneezing or discharge from nose (clear to green) - Crusty eyes - Lethargy - Loss of appetite - Possible fever
What Can you do to help stop the Spread?
Having your dog's kennel cough vaccinations up to date is very important because it will protect them against the most common strains out there and potentially give them partial protection against some newly mutated strains. We advise vaccinating them at minimum once a year, more often for show dogs or those that are kenneled at doggy daycares often.
If your pooch is showing signs of an upper respiratory infection it is always best to bring them to the vet, especially brachycephalic breeds (flat-nosed breeds) like Bulldogs or Boston Terriers who already have a harder time breathing.
There is no "cure" for a virus, but it is commonly self-limiting. We recommend rest and watching for symptoms like a green or yellow discharge from nose and/or mouth and fever. We may prescribe antibiotics if a secondary bacterial infection or bronchopneumonia is diagnosed. Please watch for signs of fever, continued cough, lethargy, and decreased appetite, as these may signal the development of pneumonia, which is seen in rare cases.
Most importantly, please keep your dog away from other dogs for at least 2 weeks after the cough has resolved. It is also very important you disinfect your hands and clothing after having handled a dog with kennel cough and before touching another dog. It is a very contagious disease.