Everything You Need to Know About Kennel Cough in Dogs

what is kennel cough in dogs

When dogs get together, there tends to be a lot of sniffing going on. It’s the perfect opportunity for them to spread germs to one another. Noses can touch and air-borne droplets get inhaled.

One of the consequences can be kennel cough, named precisely because it tends to crop up when groups of dogs congregate. So, how serious is kennel cough in dogs? Find out as we take a closer look at this kind of coughing in dogs.

What is Kennel Cough?

Kennel cough covers a multitude of infectious or contagious conditions in dogs that include coughing as a major symptom. It affects the respiratory systems of dogs, causing them to cough.

Highly treatable in most dogs, it can be serious in puppies and in immunocompromised dogs.

Infectious tracheobronchitis, one of kennel cough’s other names, refers to the place of the infection: in the trachea or windpipe and bronchial tubes.

Different types of viruses and bacteria can lead to kennel cough, often simultaneously. These include:

  • Canine coronavirus
  • Adenovirus type-2 (different from type-1 that causes infectious hepatitis)
  • Parainfluenza virus
  • The bacterium, Bordetella bronchiseptica

Since the cause of kennel cough can be a number of pathogens, experts often refer to it as Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease Complex (CIRDC).

What Are the Symptoms of Kennel Cough?

The clinical signs of kennel cough can vary. Typically mild, the cough can also be chronic with symptoms lasting for several weeks in some cases.

One of the most common signs is a loud cough often described as sounding like a goose honking.

Other symptoms include:

  • Runny eyes and nose
  • Swollen tonsils
  • Wheezing
  • A reduced appetite, and depressive behavior

Most dogs with the condition will cough when their throat gets rubbed or while they’re taking exercise. The hacking cough can continue for several weeks after the infection. Most dogs will not lose their appetite or become lethargic when infected.

The cough can be dry and hoarse or productive. Sometimes your dog may gag or make a swallowing motion after the cough in an effort to clear excess mucus. The sound is different from the cough-like sound known as reverse sneezing.

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How Do Dogs Get Kennel Cough?

Kennel cough is highly contagious. Dogs can easily pass it on through casual contact like sniffing each other when on a walk, playing, or sharing water bowls.

Other factors increase the chances of a dog contracting kennel cough. These include stress, getting cold, exposure to smoke or dust, and being in places where there are many dogs together.

Is Kennel Cough Dangerous?

Although it can be very irritating, kennel cough is not usually life-threatening. More often than not it will need no treatment at all.

In very young and elderly dogs or those with underlying health issues, it can be more serious and develop into pneumonia. When the cause is a virus, some strains can be more severe than others.

There is no single test that can diagnose kennel cough. It’s possible for a vet to take swabs to determine the precise virus or bacteria causing the condition. If there’s a chance of there being suspected complications, x-rays may be necessary.

Because of the plethora of types of kennel cough, it’s quite possible for your dog to pick up the infection more than once. It is highly unlikely that they will be able to pass these infections on to humans although there have been reports of this happening very rarely.

Although extremely uncommon, some dogs can be carriers of kennel cough for months without displaying any signs of the infection.

What Treatments Are Available for Kennel Cough?

Most dogs with kennel cough will recover at home without medication in a few weeks. Remember that your dog may continue to cough even after the infection itself has cleared up.

It’s always a good idea to report coughing symptoms to your vet because they can be a sign of a more serious disease. For example, the canine distemper virus and canine flu both begin with symptoms almost identical to kennel cough.

Other conditions that can cause coughing include asthma, bronchitis, a collapsing trachea, or even heart disease. You can read more about other coughing conditions here.

Prescribed Medications

In some instances of kennel cough, a vet may prescribe anti-inflammatories. These can help to reduce inflammation of the airways and reduce high temperatures.

Vets tend not to prescribe antibiotics for kennel cough because viruses are so often the cause of the condition. Viruses will not respond to antibiotics. Due to the risk of further complications caused by an additional bacterial infection, vets occasionally prescribe them if your dog is in what they consider to be a high-risk category.

Some of the condition’s more severe signs may be due to a bacterium like Bordetella bronchiseptica – which will respond well to antibiotics. Your vet will weigh up the pros and cons of any potential prescription.

Some dog owners say they have found nebulizers and vaporizers to be beneficial but they involve a lot of effort tend not to get prescribed.

Looking After Your Dog at Home

If your dog has kennel cough, you may find it helps to use a harness instead of a collar when you take them for a walk. Collars can aggravate coughs due to the irritation of the trachea.

You should also try to keep your dog away from other pets to reduce the chances of them passing their cough to other animals. You should therefore avoid taking your dog to public places.

If you have lots of pets, it can be very tricky keeping your animals apart and the likelihood will be that other dogs in the household will get exposed to the infection.

Plenty of rest and a lot of love and cuddles are the best treatments at home. Always ensure your dog has plenty of fresh water to drink. Exercise can make a cough much worse, so you should keep your dog warm, and comfortable. Give them the space and time to recover at their own speed.

Some dogs with kennel cough may benefit from sitting in a steamy room. You could try this by letting your dog into the bathroom while you take a bath or shower. Remember to never leave your dog alone in a steamy room. You must also not make them stay there if they appear stressed.

How Do You Prevent Kennel Cough?

The basic vaccinations dogs need as a puppy, and subsequent boosters will offer a level of protection against some of the infections that can lead to kennel cough. These include canine distemper, canine adenovirus type-2, the canine parainfluenza virus, and canine flu.

There is a separate vaccine available for the Bordetella bacterium, one of the most common culprits to cause kennel cough. If you frequently board your pet, regularly visit doggie daycare centers or compete in canine competitions, then you should consider this vaccine.

You may find that most reputable facilities will require proof of vaccination at least 2-3 weeks before allowing your pet to visit them.

The vaccine is available in several different forms. Typically, your vet will administer it in 2 separate doses around 3 weeks apart., followed by a booster every 6 months to a year.

Dogs as young as 3 weeks old can get the nasal form of the vaccine. It offers protection for around a year. It takes 3-4 days to become effective and is probably one of the fastest ways to get a good level of immunity.

Do Vaccinations Really Work?

All vaccines are highly effective and will have undergone rigorous testing. They are very safe and offer a very good degree of protection. However, no vaccine is ever going to be 100 percent effective for all dogs.

There are often lots of dependencies at play. Your dog may have a compromised immune system, underlying health issues, or other complications that can render a vaccination less effective. If you have concerns about your pet, then you should talk these over with a vet.

The bottom line is this: vaccinations can’t guarantee protection against kennel cough, but they will lower the chances of your dog getting affected.

When Should I Contact A Vet?

There are all sorts of conditions that can cause coughing. It’s therefore a good idea to get your dog checked by your vet if they have a severe cough or have been coughing for several days.

If you visit a vet, let them know that your dog has been coughing and suggest that you wait outside until called. This will help to prevent the spreading of kennel cough to other dogs who might be in the waiting room.

Talk Things Over With Us Today!

If you have concerns about coughing in dogs or a cough that your pet is experiencing, then you can get in touch with us right now. We have a team of highly experienced, qualified vets available 24/7 and every day of the week.

Sometimes, a little reassurance can go a long way especially if you think your dog may have kennel cough. We also have a range of pet insurance products available too. Find out how we can help and book a time slot with one of our vets today.

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