Kennel cough, canine cough, Bordetella — no matter what you call it, it’s a highly contagious illness that can take weeks and loads of cash to treat. Every dog owner should know the symptoms and, more importantly, how to prevent it.
Kennel cough, the scientific name for which is tracheobronchitis, can have multiple causes, the most common of which is a bacteria called Bordetella bronchiseptica m. Generally, dogs that contract the bacteria are also infected with one of several viruses — canine distemper, canine adenovirus, parainfluenza virus, canine reovirus or canine herpes — that makes them more likely to contract kennel cough.
How dogs catch kennel cough
There are also several ways to contract kennel cough. The bacteria and virus particles are airborne, so dogs can catch it by inhaling those, whether or not an infected dog is present at the time. The bacteria and viruses may also be on objects they come in contact with.
They can also catch it when they’re in close proximity with a dog that’s infected. Keep in mind that some dogs can be carriers without showing symptoms.
The symptoms of kennel cough
Kennel cough has several symptoms, but it’s important to note that not all dogs will exhibit all symptoms.
- A persistent dry cough
- Runny nose
- (Sometimes) lethargy
- (Sometimes) decreased appetite
- (Sometimes) fever
In mild cases, dogs won’t exhibit any decreased activity or appetite or have a fever, but in serious cases, the symptoms could eventually progress to include those symptoms. It can also become pneumonia. Untreated, kennel cough can result in death.
What to do if your dog may have kennel cough
Keep your dog away from other dogs, including any other dogs you have. In a multi-dog household, even seemingly unaffected animals should be kept away from other dogs until you’re sure they aren’t infected.
Clean and disinfect your house from top to bottom to prevent other dogs from getting sick if at all possible. Keep disinfecting regularly until your infected dog has been well for at least a week.
Schedule an appointment with your vet as soon as possible. He or she may request that you also bring in your other dogs, though the vet may suggest just monitoring them. If your dog is diagnosed with kennel cough, it will take three to four weeks (it may be longer if your dog is immunocompromised, such as an elderly or very young dog).
In the meantime, with your vet’s approval (or even afterward), you might consider giving your dog honey to soothe its throat (about a teaspoon several times a day). You can also ask your vet about cough medicine (the dose and type will be determined by your dog’s breed and size, which your vet can help you with). You’ll want to use a humidifier, keep your dog away from smoke and make sure it’s not overly stressed (which can impede recovery). If you have to walk it, use a harness as a collar can put pressure on its throat and cause irritation.
Your vet will probably prescribe antibiotics and perhaps something to soothe its cough or throat.
Preventing kennel cough
The best way to prevent kennel cough is to get your dog vaccinated, especially if it’s around other dogs frequently. However, there are also other preventative methods.
Make sure you know about the dogs yours associates with. Yes, that even means asking friends about their dogs’ vaccination histories before scheduling play dates.
Be careful at the dog park. You absolutely shouldn’t take an unvaccinated dog to one as you have no control over what others do. If your dog isn’t vaccinated, you are taking a risk, but either way, keep it away from other animals while you’re there and don’t let it lick or play with anything you didn’t bring. That doesn’t mean it still won’t pick it up.
If you have to board your pet, make sure the facility looks clean and well-maintained. Ask them if they sanitize regularly (and on what schedule) and ask if they have an air-purifying or disinfectant unit installed (and ask if it’s in working order and properly maintained). Above all, do not take your pet to any boarder, groomer or daycare facility that doesn’t require proof of current vaccinations.