Just like you, your pet may catch an occasional cold, caused by any number of different pathogens and the most common being the bacterium Bordetella bronchiseptica. Kennel Cough, not uncommon among dogs or cats, is a contagious respiratory disease, which, like the common cold, will usually go away on its own without treatment.
Contracting the Cough – Not Just in the Kennel
Unfortunately, kennel cough can be transmitted to a dog instantly. All it takes is for the infected dog to breathe on, cough on, or touch anything your dog is likely to touch. The name kennel cough itself can be slightly misleading. Dogs can contract kennel cough outside of a kennel through meeting other dogs in the park, at pet stores, during obedience classes, or grooming facilities, and can easily be spread from one dog to another. Any contact in a crowded or poorly ventilated area will increase the risk of exposure. Often times, there can be multiple infectious agents at play working to compromise your pooch’s health. And similar to humans, stressed dogs have reduced immunity. So, bear in mind that travel-induced stress or the stress of being away from you can make your dog more susceptible to contracting the virus. Like the common cold, exposure may occur long before you begin to notice symptoms in your dog.
Interested in more information about pet health? Check out our article about the benefits to in-home pet-sitting.
What to Look For
The cough itself can be dry or wet and will likely be a hacking cough, occasionally accompanied by gagging. Some would even say it sounds like a goose honk. Persistent and forceful, the cough may appear as though your dog is choking on something. Anything that causes pressure on your dog’s trachea – pulling on a leash, exercise, or simple excitement, can bring on the cough. Occasionally, dogs with kennel cough may also present other symptoms like a runny nose or discharge from the eyes. In severe cases, your dog may have a fever, be lethargic and not want to eat. If untreated, this can progress to pneumonia. Just like humans, dogs can carry the infection and not show any symptoms. So, sometimes a dog may seem ok and safe for your dog to play with, but in reality, they could be carrying a nasty bug.
Treatment and Prevention
If you think that your dog may have kennel cough, there are several steps you can take:
- Keep them away from other dogs.
- Make sure they are in a well-humified area.
- Use a harness instead of a collar.
If the symptoms persist for longer than 6-8 weeks, see your veterinarian. While the infection can resolve on its own, the veterinarian can prescribe medications that reduce symptoms and speed up recovery. They may also elect to conduct an x-ray to rule out pneumonia or other serious infections. The best way to prevent a kennel cough infection is to take precautions: keep them away from known infected dogs and ask his playmates’ parents if he is up to date on his vaccinations. If you have no option other than boarding your dog, check with your veterinarian about vaccine options begun a few weeks before boarding. There is no single vaccine, like the flu vaccine, but the injection, nasal mist, or tablet options may make any contracted infection less severe.
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