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If a dog has kennel cough you'll know about it. The dog will produce a cough that very much sounds like a goose honk. Dogs that have this condition will often be seen retching and gagging. It kind of looks like the dog is choking on something that has stuck in its throat.

Kennel cough is a highly contagious disease of the animal's respiratory system. This disease is also known as canine infectious tracheobronchitis and can be caused by more than one organism. Sometimes dogs that have kennel cough may also have other viruses including distemper, adenovirus type 2, parainfluenza, reovirus or herpes. They may even have a bacterial infection such as Bordetella bronchiseptica or even other organisms.

Kennel cough can be contracted when dogs are exposed to other dogs at kennels, shelters, dog shows, pet shops, grooming facilities, dog parks, and so on. Anywhere where there are dogs they are at risk.

A Very Contagious Disease

Whenever a dog that has kennel cough starts to gag and cough, the viruses and bacteria of this disease are dispensed into the air. Much like us spreading the common cold or flu. As the other dogs in the area breath, they inhale these viruses and bacteria. These infectious organisms then begin to irritate the lining of the respiratory tract which makes the dogs susceptible to acquiring other types of organisms.

We are often told to keep dogs with kennel cough away from other dogs. But this is not very effective. The viruses and bacteria that infect the dog can spread onto other surfaces. Even food and water bowls can spread the disease.

When a dog contracts kennel cough they will begin to show symptoms within 4 to 10 days. By that time the disease usually is quite advanced and the animal will require immediate veterinary care.

If the disease is mild and uncomplicated, your dog may only have a dry cough with no phlegm being evident. Often the coughing will worsen when the dog exercises and then subside when he is at rest. In such cases, the dog will still have an abundance of energy and a good appetite.

When the kennel cough is complicated with a secondary bacterial infection the dog may show signs of lethargy, and there will probably be a nasal discharge and loss of appetite.

In really severe cases the infection may also attack the lungs of the animal. This is when it becomes life-threatening. In a severe case, dogs will have a very wet cough bringing up a lot of phlegm and mucus. They will also show signs of difficulty in breathing, have a fever, and begin to lose weight.

Can Kennel Cough Be Treated?

As with any other illness, the first step in treating it is to properly diagnose it. So the first thing to do is to take your dog to the veterinarian. Most vets will be able to diagnose the disease based on the animal's history and clinical signs. He will also perform a physical examination. One of the telltale signs that tell a vet that the animal has kennel cough is when they apply gentle pressure on the animal's trachea. This will, if the animal has kennel cough, cause the animal to begin coughing.

However, to determine the actual severity of the disease the veterinarian will need to conduct additional tests. These tests will include a complete bloodwork and X-rays. If the veterinarian needs to identify the exact organism that has cause kennel cough he will submit the animal to other more specific tests. Knowing the causative organism will help guide the treatment as different organisms require different treatments.

One of the major steps to treating this disease is to quarantine your dog. This can be done at home or at the veterinarian's clinic. This will prevent other dogs from coming into contact with the infectious organisms. The quarantine period will last for at least two weeks but should continue until your veterinarian gives the all clear.

Dogs that have a dry cough are usually prescribed a cough suppressant. In many cases of dry kennel cough, it will clear up by itself without any medication at all. The key is to let the dog rest for a couple of weeks to recuperate. It should not exercise, run, climb stairs, or jump. It is also advisable to use a halter instead of a collar until your dog has recovered.

Severe cases will require antibiotics to treat the infection(s) and might require hospitalization.

Kennel cough is usually not spread to humans. The only exception is for people who suffer from any immuno-deficiency disorder. The organisms from kennel cough can cause severe respiratory infections in these people.

Prevention is Key

The best protection for your pet is that of prevention. The first step is to always make sure that your dog's vaccines are up to date. These will protect your dog against some of the viruses that can cause kennel cough. Also, consider getting the Bordetella bronchiseptica vaccine. This vaccine is available in nasal, injectable, and oral forms. It will help to protect your pet from this bacteria which can complicate kennel cough. This is a vaccine that is given once a year. However, if you take your pet to places where there are other animals your vet may recommend that you have your dog vaccinated every six months.

Once your dog has all of its vaccines up to date is there a chance that it will contract kennel cough? Vaccines are not foolproof. They just lower the risk. If your dog does get kennel cough, having all of its vaccines up to date will most likely reduce the severity of the disease.

In Conclusion

Kennel cough is highly contagious. Every dog is at risk of contracting this disease and it can have serious consequences for the animal. Knowing the risks is a big part of protecting your pet from contracting this disease. Before taking your dog into areas where there are other dogs, spend a few moments watching the other dogs for any sign of coughing and gagging.

This is a disease where prevention and precaution are your best tools. Besides the possibility of losing your pet, this can be an expensive disease to treat. Especially if it is severe and complicated.

Kennel Cough Areas Of Infection | Pet Quest
Commonly infected areas of kennel cough.
Kennel Cough Areas Of Infection | Pet Quest
Commonly infected areas of kennel cough.
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